Semantic theories provide a systematic description of the meanings of the sentences of particular natural languages, or at least of simplified models of such languages, for a number of explanatory purposes. The notion of the content or proposition expressed by a sentence is central to most semantic theorising: the predictions a semantic theory yields concern which semantic content (or which proposition) each sentence expresses in a possible context of use.
In the last ten years or so, philosophers and semanticists have engaged in a extensive debate about the best way to model various novel forms of context dependence. One of these is the debate about whether the semantic contents of sentences can contain so-called “unarticulated constituents“. Another debate is about the question whether semantic contents should be regarded as absolutely true or false, or whether their truth-values should be relativized to novel parameters, over and above the standard possible worlds. These disputes have reached an impasse. It is the hypothesis of this project that they cannot be resolved without a clarification of the notion of a semantic content, which is central to the disputes.
The project aims to re-assess the motivation for the notion of semantic content both historically and in the light of current theorizing, to articulate the theoretical role and purpose of this notion (if any), and to use the resulting clarified theoretical framework to make progress in resolving the disputes.
Research project supported by: