Das waren die deutschen Stuka-Asse, 1939-1945 by Georg Brutting

By Georg Brutting

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This is not to say that the research strategy of studying the consequences of various formal definitions of “compositional” has no value for linguistics: it most certainly does. The concern is rather that it—much like the issue of whether all natural language syntax is weakly context-free—should not be blown out of proportion to its real significance and should not divert efforts away from other equally important questions in mathematical linguistics. 28 David Dowty And we should try to find empirical data that argue for our conclusions whenever possible.

For example, mass nouns have been analyzed as denoting elements in a non-atomic join semilattice, count nouns as denoting sets of discrete individuals. Various writers have argued that nouns and verbs have consistently different kinds of denotations, even though no distinction between their denotations is made in standard logic and model-theory. “Kind of meaning” here might be treated as a difference in logical type or a sortal difference. Compositionality as an Empirical Problem 39 transparency, in comparison to theories without it.

40 David Dowty to the worst case”? Why was this a good thing to do in 1970 but a bad one in 1990? After all, finding an analysis that encompasses seemingly exceptional data under a broader generalization is a hallowed paradigm of argumentation in linguistic theory. One facile answer is that a higher logical type is worse than a lower logical type because it is “more complicated”, but why exactly is that so? It has always been recognized that model-theoretic constructs cannot be identified with units of psychological processing (we do not carry around infinite sets of possible worlds in our heads when we grasp propositions or generalized quantifier denotations when we understand NPs), nor can translations into a formal language that serve as the (dispensable) intermediary correspond to what is in the head either; ultimately the only empirical test of a model-theoretic account of natural language semantics is the characterization of entailments among sentences it gives, and the higher-order IL formula ÎP [P ( j )](walk ) necessarily has exactly the same entailments as the logically equivalent first-order walk (j).

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