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THE FORMAL SEMANTICS OF POINT OF VIEW

JONATHAN EDWARD MITCHELL, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Abstract

It has long been noted that propositional attitudes often involve a special mode of reference to oneself. The sentence (i) "John thinks he won the raffle" implies something different from (ii) "John thinks that the person who holds ticket number 43 won the raffle", even if John is in fact the holder of that ticket. If John has forgotten his number, (ii) might hold without (i) holding. Sentence (i) implies that John thinks "I myself won," and the "first person" or "self-ascriptive" quality of such propositional attitudes is not captured in most model theoretic approaches to semantics. It has also long been noted that many property and relation expressions are used with implicit or surpressed argument positions, and that such expressions are interpreted perspectivally, i.e. relative to a point of view. These two phenomena interact, with the result that self-ascription is more pervasive in the language than is usually recognized. The sentence (iii) "John thinks that restaurant is around the corner" has a prominent interpretation according to which John thinks--in the special self-ascriptive way--"the restaurant is around the corner from here (from where I am now)".^ In the first chapter, self-ascription and perspectivity are explored, with attention to the ambiguities that arise from them. In the second chapter, an analysis of self-ascription is developed within the framework of situational semantics. It is proposed that there be assignments in parallel of two propositional contents to every propositional attitude. This elaboration in the semantics is shown to account for a wide range of complex cases, and to work recursively for multiply embedded propositional attitudes. Here an argument is offered that the restrictions on pronoun interpretation are grounded in variable binding and complex property formation rather than sameness and difference of reference. The third chapter explores the polyadicity issues raised by implicit arguments and point of view. An important claim of this section is that thematic relations should be incorporated into a formal semantics approach. Finally, the fourth chapter brings all the proposals together into a formal fragment. ^

Subject Area

Language, Linguistics

Recommended Citation

JONATHAN EDWARD MITCHELL, "THE FORMAL SEMANTICS OF POINT OF VIEW" (January 1, 1986). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. Paper AAI8701201.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI8701201

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