May 18, 2016

Research Groups: Week of May 16-20

Thursday, May 19 - 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM in SS 1086
Syntax/Semantics Group
Two practise talks for CLA-ACL: Neil Banerjee (BA) and Nicholas Welch (postdoc).

Friday, May 20 - 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM in SS 560A
Semantics/Pragmatics Group
Rory Harder (Department of Philosophy): "Deontic modals: Inference patterns and understanding."

Here are two desiderata that a theory of meaning for deontic modals should meet: (1) given that P entails Q , it does not follow that Ought(P) entails Ought(Q); and (2) if, in a given context c, a speaker who is semantically competent with the term Ought can make a sincere judgment that Ought(P), a theory of meaning for Ought should not rule out the truth-hood of Ought(P) in c. The first is called non-upward monotonicity, and the second semantic neutrality. It is surprising to me that no theory of meaning for deontic modals has been presented in the literature that meets both of them. In this paper, I first summarize some results that show that the semantics from Kratzer (1981) and Lassiter (2011) fail to meet at least one of the desiderata. I then present some novel results in this vein. A couple recent theories, from Cariani (2013) and Fusco (2015), designed specifically to meet constraints like (1), fail to meet (2). And a couple recent neutral theories, from Carr (2015) and Charlow (forthcoming), designed specifically to meet (2), fail to meet (1), and also, thereby, fail to fully meet (2) as well. In conclusion, I make some general suggestions for how an adequate semantics for deontic modals could be constructed.

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