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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton February 26, 2008

Is the meta-language really natural?

  • Lisa Matthewson
From the journal


1. On the status of the primitives

It is interesting and surely non-coincidental that the semantic primitives proposed by NSM researchers include some of the most hotly-debated topics in the formal semantics literature. There is a large body of formal semantic research (too large to be cited here) on each of the following NSM primitives: indexical pronouns such as I and you, demonstratives like this, quantifiers such as something, all, many, and one, modals like can, propositional attitude verbs like know and think, adjectives such as good and bad, the predicates have and (there) is, the connectives because, when, and if. Other proposed primitives such as before, after, the same, like, and kind (of) have also been the subject of discussion and debate. Indeed, there may not be a single proposed semantic primitive which fails to strike formal semanticists as extremely complex. Thus, it is difficult for us to accept the NSM claim that primitives such as i, you, someone, this, think, and want are ‘simple words’ and that they are ‘intuitively comprehensible and self-explanatory’ (Durst, p. 2).

Published Online: 2008-02-26
Published in Print: 2004-05-25

© Walter de Gruyter

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