5 December 2006
Title: The paradox of implicit arguments
Consider the verb to read. It has two interesting properties.
First, it is optionally transitive; second, it gives rise to the
following paraphrasal equivalents:
This and many other relational words give rise to the following
paradox. Either there is only one verb to read or there are
two. Suppose that there is only one verb. Let M be the model in
which it is to be interpreted. On the one hand, since it is
intransitive, as shown in (1.1), its semantic value, like the semantic
value of any intransitive verb such as, say, the verb to
sleep, must be a set of objects of M's universe. On the other
hand, since it is transitive, as is shown in (1.2), its semantic value,
like the semantic value of any transitive verb such as, say, the verb
to admire, must be a set of the ordered pairs of objects in
M's universe. But no model assigns to a single predicate both a set
of its universe and a set of ordered pairs of its
universe. Alternatively, suppose that there are two verbs, one
intransitive, the other transitive. Then, while the intransitive verb
to read is assigned a set from a model's universe and the
transitive verb to read is assigned a set of ordered pairs
from the same universe, there will be models in which neither
sentence in (1) entails the other. But surely there are no
models of the sentences in (1) where Bill, say, is
among those who read but not among those who read something or is
among those who read something but not among those who read.
Two attempts have been made to solve this paradox, one by Fodor and
Fodor (1980) and the other by Dowty (1981). Both solutions posit that
there are two verbs: one transitive, the other intransitive. The
equivalence between the two, as illustrated in (1), is established by
a meaning postulate, in the case of Fodor and Fodor (1980), and by a
lexical rule, in the case of Dowty (1981).
In my talk, I shall first put forth another, more satisfactory
solution to the paradox. It holds that there is but one verb to
read. Presenting this solution constitutes the first part of this
talk. Next, I shall show that many are the relational words tolerating
implicit arguments. Such words occur in every lexical class: verb,
noun, adjective, preposition and adverb. All these words present the
same paradox. And in every case the paradox can be resolved in the
same way. The talk closes with a discussion of the import of this
solution for the syntrax and semantics of passive.
|(1.1) ||Bill read. |
|(1.2) ||Bill read something.
Dowty, David 1981 `Quantification and the lexicon: a reply to Fodor
and Fodor'. In: Moortgat et al. (eds) 1981.
Fodor, Jerry and Fodor, Janet Dean 1980 `Functional structure,
quantifiers and meaning postulates'. Linguistic Inquiry:
v. 11, pp. 759-769.
Moortgat, M. Hulst, H. v.d., Hoekstra (eds) 1981 The scope of
lexical rules. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris Publications.
File translated from
On 26 Oct 2006, 23:32.