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Unformatted text preview: 1 LING 201: Introduction to Linguistics 10th Conference: Semantics 1 – Solution I. Sentence meaning and truth Think about the following two questions: (i) Is it possible to know the meaning of a sentence without knowing its truth value, that is, without knowing whether it is true or false? (ii) Conversely, is it possible to know the truth value of a sentence without knowing its meaning? Try to think of concrete situations and examples. Answer It is quite possible (extremely common in fact) to know the meaning of a sentence without knowing whether it is true. Take the sentence The McGill libraries have more books with more than five hundred pages than books with less than two hundred pages . If you are like most people, you will not know whether this sentence is true or false. Yet one cannot reasonably accuse you on the basis of this that you do not know the meaning of the sentence. You know its meaning alright; you know its truth conditions – you know what it would take for the sentence to be true. The knowledge you lack is not knowledge about linguistic meaning, but rather knowledge about a non-linguistic fact (namely whether or not the McGill libraries have more books with more than five hundred pages than books with less than two hundred pages). It is also be possible (although admittedly not very common) to know whether a sentence is true without knowing its meaning. For example, I could assure you that the German sentence Hunde haben vier Beine is true. Now you know that. But unless you know German, you will still not know what kind of fact about the world makes it true; you do not know the truth conditions of the sentence, and so you do not know its meaning. Or suppose I know that the word wug describes one of two kinds of objects, either O1 or O2, but I don’t know which one. Now suppose objects of both kinds are on the table, and someone says There is a wug on the table . I know the sentence is true (hence I know its truth value) but there is a sense in which I don’t know its meaning (because I don’t know the general conditions under which it is true)....
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- Fall '10
- Semantics, world cup, Arg entina