Institut Jean Nicod

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April 23 : Sara Packalén (Stockholm University, IJN)


Mardi 23 avril 2013 de 16h30 à 18h30
Institut Jean-Nicod, ENS, 29, rue d’Ulm 75005 paris, Salle de réunion, RDC.

Sara Packalén (Stockholm University, Institut Jean-Nicod),
"On the Relation between Semantics and Psychology"

 

Abstract :

Do the mental states and structures of a natural language speaker constrain a semantic theory for her language ? The answer seems to depend on what we want a semantic theory for a natural language to do. Minimally, we want it to make the correct predictions about the meanings of the sentences of the language and about grammaticality. However, most theorists agree on that an adequate natural language semantics should do some explanatory work over and above the purely descriptive work. The theory should fit into an explanation of certain core human linguistic capacities, such as our ability to learn a language, understand novel expressions in a language and process linguistic information with high speed and accuracy rate. Now, given that learning and understanding are psychological processes, it is natural to require of an adequate natural language semantics that it fit into a psychological explanation of the mentioned linguistic capacities. On this view, then, an adequate semantic theory for a language L describes the actual states and structures of the mind/brains of the speakers of L (at some level of abstraction). If so, a theory that makes the correct predictions about meaning and grammaticality but misrepresents the relevant mental states and structures of the speakers will be incorrect in a substantial sense. The aim of the talk is to discuss whether this final step, the ’psychological’ step, is warranted.

 

 


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