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Language and conceptual reanalysis

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Abstract

In my view, phrasal meanings are instructions for how to build conjunctive monadic concepts. But phrasal concepts like &#8216;chase cows&#8217; are not <i>merely</i> conjunctive. The idea is that open class lexical items fetch monadic concepts like <sc>CHASE</sc>(_), while some grammatical relations introduce thematic concepts like <sc>PATIENT</sc>(_, _) and a restricted form of existential closure. I grant that animal cognition employs singular and polyadic concepts. But I think lexicalization is often a formally creative process in which nonmonadic concepts are used to <i>introduce</i> concepts like <sc>CHASE</sc>(_). In defending this view, I draw on Frege&#8217;s conception of logic and Chomsky&#8217;s conception of linguistics. My aim, in the spirit of Chomsky&#8217;s minimalist program, is to reduce the stock of composition operations that semanticists appeal to. Much of the paper focuses on the requisite conjunction and closure operations, distinguishing them from more general operations that theorists often invoke.

References

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