Book

The Logic of Language

Pieter A. M. Seuren

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199559480
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191721144 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199559480.001.0001

Series: Language from Within

The Logic of Language

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The Logic of Language opens a new perspective on logic. Seuren first argues that the logic of language derives from the lexical meanings of the logical operators. These meanings, however, prove not to be consistent. To solve this problem, the author distinguishes between a default ‘basic‐natural’ and two nondefault ‘strict‐natural’ versions of natural predicate logic, all different from standard modern logic. Basic‐natural logic is shown to derive from an ontology of entities and properties, combined with a basic‐natural set theory, reflecting the way humans deal cognitively with plural sets. A new measure for ‘logical power’ shows the extreme weakness of standard predicate logic as against the maximal power of one version of strict‐natural logic, traditional, post‐Aristotelian predicate logic, or the ‘Square of Opposition’. It is shown that Aristotle's original logic as reconstructed by Abelard is logically faultless (unlike the Square, which suffers from ‘undue existential import’) and also more powerful than standard logic, though less so than the Square or basic‐natural logic. The latter two are shown to be maximally functional for natural linguistic interaction. In the last five chapters, a general theory of discourse‐bound interpretation is developed, covering discourse incrementation, anaphora, presupposition (with its logic) and topic—comment structure. The ‘donkey‐anaphora’ problem is solved by an appeal to discourse structures. The great defect of the Square, its ‘undue existential import’, is remedied by means of a protecting presuppositional ‘mantle’ creating a third truth value of radical falsity, assigned to propositions suffering from presupposition failure and causing inconsistency with preceding true discourse. Finally, topic—comment structure is shown to correspond to a question—answer game directing the building up of discourse domains and to be not of a pragmatic but of a truth‐conditional, hence semantic, nature. Anaphora, presupposition, and topic—comment structure are thus seen to form the ‘cement’ of discourse structure.

Keywords: logic; entailment; standard modern predicate logic; existential import; context‐sensitivity; textual coherence; incrementation procedure; donkey anaphora; primary anaphora; discourse‐anchoring; presupposition; topic

Book.  448 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Semantics

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Table of Contents

Logic and entailment in The Logic of Language

Chapter

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Logic: a new beginning in The Logic of Language

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Natural set theory and natural logic in The Logic of Language

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Logical power, Abelard, and empirical success rates in The Logic of Language

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Aristotle, the commentators, and Abelard in The Logic of Language

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The functionality of the Square and of BNPC in The Logic of Language

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The context‐sensitivity of speech and language in The Logic of Language

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Discourse incrementation in The Logic of Language

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Primary and donkey anaphora in The Logic of Language

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Presupposition and presuppositional logic in The Logic of Language

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