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Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Semantics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207498.1997.00003.x


In the past twenty-five years semantics has moved from a peripheral status in the theory of grammar to a central role in linguistic research. At the beginning of the 1970s most linguists working within generative grammar regarded linguistic semantics as an underdeveloped field without a clearly specified formal framework or a well-defined research programme. The following comment from Chomsky (1971) reflects this widely held view. In the domain of semantics there are, needless to say, problems of fact and principle that have barely been approached, and there is no reasonably concrete or well-defined “theory of semantic representation” to which one can refer. I will, however, assume here that such a system can be developed, and that it makes sense to speak of the ways in which the inherent meaning of a sentence, characterized in some still-to-be-discovered system of representation, is related to various aspects of its form. (p.183) The situation changed soon after the publication of Chomsky's paper. The appearance of Montague's “Proper Treatment of Quantification in Ordinary English” (PTQ) in 1973 provided a model for developing a formal semantic theory of natural language. Specifically, Montague constructed a theory of semantic representation in which the model theoretic interpretations of natural language sentences (and expressions generally) are built up by rules operating in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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