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Formal Semantics and the Psychology of Meaning

  • P. N. Johnson-Laird
Part of the Synthese Language Library book series (SLAP, volume 16)

Abstract

Logicians have only related language to models in various ways; psychologists have only related it to the mind; the real task, however, is to show how language relates to the world through the agency of the mind. This task is, at present, beyond the resources of Cognitive Science, but there is some chance of success by pooling the skills and knowledge of its contributing disciplines. The aim of this paper is accordingly to try to bring together formal and psychological semantics in order to determine the nature of the relations between them. In writing it, I have found myself in effect attempting to make a tunnel that would link up the heights of formal semantics, where the light has an unreal clarity, to the low lying realities of psychology, where the atmosphere is, to say the least, somewhat murky. Like a tunneler, I have tended to work first from one direction to the other, and then, when I reached an impasse, to switch round and work from the other direction. Whether or not the two halves would in the end join up — and I would, as it were, be able to shake hands with myself — was something that was unforeseeable at the outset. The project was an experiment: how could I tell what to think until I read what I wrote? Fortunately, there were a number of excellent surveys to guide me, and indeed it would be as well to begin with a brief exploration of the two areas with a view to finding some potential routes between them.

Keywords

Mental Model Modal Logic Noun Phrase Formal Semantic Propositional Attitude 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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  • P. N. Johnson-Laird

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