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By David A. Schmidt

Publication by way of Schmidt, David A.

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Sample text

The picture promulgated by these authors is one where words are endowed with a stable meaning, and the meaning of a sentence is determined compositionally by the meanings of its constituents and by the way they are syntactically arranged. Sentence meaning is conceived in terms of truth-conditions, so the theory commits to the idea that, given a sentence S, it is possible to derive its truth-condition, for example in the form of a T-sentence (‘S is true if and only if p’) by applying the rules of compositionality to the meanings of the components of the sentence.

That dog is dangerous’ would be true if the dog’s tendency to bite people were discussed and the dog were aggressive – but not if the dog were kind and loving, but unhealthy; it would be false if the dog were very small and lightweight and one were to consider the consequences of being jumped over by it. Since in all these and other cases, where no obvious under-determinacy or context-sensitivity is manifested, a Context-Shifting Argument can be reproduced, then semantic under-determinacy and context-sensitivity could potentially be shown to affect the entire language, thus giving way to Radical Contextualism.

Later on, a botanist friend calls her, asking for some samples of green-leaved plants. Again, she states: ‘The leaves are green’, but this time she speaks falsely (the example is inspired by Travis, 1997, p. 89, but see also Travis, 2008, pp. 25–6). ‘Jill is ready’ Jill is studying for her Spanish exam, but she is horribly behind with grammar exercises and feels like she would need more time to be fully prepared. In the evening, her friend Carol picks her up at her house on their way to a concert.

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