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Language in Context: Selected Essays [Print Replica] [Kindle Edition]

Jason Stanley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Natural languages all contain constructions the interpretation of which depends upon the situation in which they are used. In Language and Context, Jason Stanley presents a series of essays which develop a theory of how the situation in which we speak interacts with the words we use to help produce what we say. The reason we can so smoothly operate with sentences that can be used to express very different items of information, Stanley argues, is that there are
linguistically mandated constraints on the effects of the situation on what we say. These linguistically mandated constraints are most evident in the cases of sentences containing explicit pronouns, such as 'She is a mathematician', where interpretation of the information expressed is guided by the use of the pronoun
'she'. But even when such explicit pronouns are lacking, our sentences provide similar cues to allow our interlocutors to determine the information expressed. We are, in the main, confident that our interlocutors will smoothly grasp what we say, because the grammar and meaning of our sentences encodes these constraints. In defending this theory, Stanley pays close attention to specific cases of context-sensitive constructions, such as quantified noun phrases, comparative adjectives, and

Philosophers and cognitive scientist have appealed to the dependence of what is intuitively said by a sentence on the situation in which it is uttered to argue against the possibility of a systematic theory of meaning for natural language. The theory developed in this book is a vigorous defence of the possibility of a systematic theory of meaning for natural language against these influential tendencies.

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Editorial Reviews


"Although the individual essays collected in Language in Context have already been widely read and discussed, it is useful to have them collected in a single volume. Reading the essays together, framed by an informative Introduction and Postscript, one can appreciate the richness, complexity and breadth of Jason Stanley's theoretical framework. These essays represent the state of the art in semantics and the philosophy of language and are mandatory reading for anyone working in these and related areas.... There is no question that Language in Context is an outstanding achievement. Not since Stephen Neale's Descriptions has a book brought the apparatus of formal semantics and linguistic theory to bear on issues in the philosophy of language in such a constructive and illuminating way."--Gary Ostertag, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Philosophical Reviews

About the Author

Jason Stanley is at Rutgers University, New Jersey.

Product Details

  • File Size: 3401 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press (July 5, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005NKIX3I
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,357,307 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5.0 out of 5 stars a classic collection of essays December 31, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Determining the meaning of a sentence in everyday situations often requires that we attend to the context in which these sentences are used. This book presents Stanley's (and in some cases Stanley & co-author) attempts to develop a theory of the role context plays in determining meaning. The book is a collection of previously published essays on a single topic rather than a multi-chapter work that first introduces the topic, considers competing theories, and then offers evidence and argument for his preferred position. But, many of the essays are (or quickly becoming classics), e.g. "Context and Logical Form."

Many of the essays are technical and so if you are unfamiliar with formal semantics, the semantics-pragmatics distinction, semantic minimalism and contextualism, I would suggest another work to start, e.g. Francois Recanati's "Literal Meaning," Emma Borg's "Minimal Semantics," or Cappelen & Lepore's "Insensitive Semantics."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Immensely stimulating November 30, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an immensely stimulating book, and I can do nothing better than to echo Ostertag's assessment in the editorial review. The richness and complexity - and the ingenuity of some of the approaches - of this book makes it required reading for anyone working on the topics covered - or topics related to the ones covered - in this book.

Part of what makes this book so refreshing is Stanley's defense of a systematic approach to semantic content, i.e. "there is no gap between the linguistically determined content of a sentence, relative to a context, and the proposition it intuitively seems to express", in opposition to the currently popular free enrichment or anti-systemtaticity-friendly approaches of radical contextualists such as relevance theorists on the one hand and semantic minimalists on the other (both of which could somewhat derogatively but not entirely unjustifiably be accused of "goddidit" approaches to the determination of content).

One nitpick stems from the fact that the book consists, in part, of already published essays, and unfortunately the exact account of the nominal restriction theory (that quantifier domain restrictions are signaled by covert elements) argued for in the early chapters has, apparently, been modified since - unfortunate in the sense that the claim that the restrictor co-habits a node with the nominal, which is argued for in the earlier chapters, is apparently rejected in favor of an account where the restrictor occupies a separate node. But then it is unclear how this view avoids the explicit counterarguments considered in those earlier chapters. It is particularly unfortunate since the nominal restriction theory is the basis for many of the solutions to problems discussed later on.
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