Intensionality, grammar, and the sententialist hypothesis

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Intensionality, the apparent failure of a normal referential interpretation of nominals in embedded positions, is a phenomenon that is pervasive in human language. It has been a foundational problem for semantics, defining a significant part of its agenda. Here we address the explanatory question of why it <i>exists</i>. Distinguishing lexical aspects of meaning from those that depend on grammatical patterning, we argue that intensionality is mainly grammatical in nature and origin: intensionality is an architectural consequence of the design of human grammar, although, in language use, lexical and pragmatic factors also play a role in the genesis of intuitions of non-substitutability <i>salva veritate</i>. Over the course of this paper, we offer a sequence of ten empirical arguments for this conclusion. A particular account of recursive structure-building in grammar is also offered, which predicts intensionality effects from constraints that govern how nominals of different grammatical types are embedded as arguments in larger units. Crucially, our account requires no appeal to a traditionally postulated semantic ontology of &#8216;senses&#8217; or &#8216;thoughts&#8217; as entities &#8216;denoted&#8217; by embedded clauses, which, we argue, are explanatorily inert. It also covers intensionality characteristics in apparently non-sentential complements of verbs, which we further argue, against the claims of the recent &#8216;Sententialist Hypothesis&#8217;, not to be sentential complements in disguise.


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