Interview by Richard Marshall
'For now, there is a discipline distinct from philosophy of linguistics that explores the issue of whether linguistics as a science is even possible, and whether the fundamental assumptions in the background of current linguistics stand up to scrutiny. This is what I think we can call philosophy of language.'
'A lot of the debates in philosophy of language concern whether some philosophically interesting word (‘know’, ‘free’, cause’, ‘self’, ‘true’, etc.) is context-sensitive. There is no general consensus how to address these questions and it sometimes feels like these debates are hopeless – some claiming context-sensitivity just to solve a philosophical puzzle, others denying it just to block the solution.'
'I concede that Grice and his followers overestimated the scope of the phenomenon of conversational implicature. I don’t think, as the orthodox Gricean would, that when we use a metaphor there is a specific content we intend to convey and I acknowledge, as the orthodox Gricean would not, that sentences used to express indirect requests may well be ambiguous.'
'Compositionality is compatible even with the most extreme form of meaning holism, according to which every expression means what it does for the same reason – that there is a certain convention that settles the meanings of all expressions of a language spoken by a population and that the expression belongs to that language.'
'The relationship between natural and formal languages is perplexing. On the face of it, their grammatical categories are entirely distinct.'
'Some philosophers don’t think there are abstracta, or unobservables, or things of inherent value, so they don’t believe mathematics, physics, or ethics. At the same time, they are as convinced as the rest of us that these theories are in good order. Fictionalism tells all of us what to do: accept the theories without belief.'
Zoltán Gendler Szabó's interests lie in philosophy of language and metaphysics. Among his current areas of research are the semantics of modality, tense and aspect, the relationship between lexical and ontological categories, and the nature of context. Here he discusses the relationship between philosophy of language and linguistics, Locke, context-sensitivity, Paul Grice and conversational implicature, Robert Stalnaker's 'middle course', compositionally, why Fodor and Lepore are wrong about meaning holism and compositionality, the importance of 'aspect', the relationship between natural and formal languages, quantifiers, and factionalism.
3:16: What made you become a philosopher?
Zoltán Gendler Szabó: Three exceptional teachers. In high school in Budapest, I attended a special mathematics class under the supervision of János Rácz. I remember the first thing he told us when we started geometry was to throw away our rulers and compasses because we don’t want our diagrams to be precise. In typical geometry problem, you want to prove that the intersection of a pair of lines is identical with the intersection of another pair. If your diagram is precise, the four lines intersect at a single point, which makes it hard to see what exactly you are supposed to show. Better to draw things in a way that allows the two points to be distinct and prove that your diagram is wrong. A good representation is one that misrepresents – this completely blew my mind. For four years, I continued to receive the most philosophically sensitive mathematics education imaginable and, naturally, I went to major in philosophy and mathematics at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.
Things at the university were not what I expected. It was 1984 and there was little hint that five years later, the political situation would change radically. I had to take scores of classes in dialectical materialism, historical materialism, and scientific socialism. The worst was dialectical logic: we were taught that symbolic logic is the bourgeois logic of form (the tool of oppression), which is being superseded by the logic of content of the proletariat (the tool of liberation). The way you study the logic of content is you read Marx and Lenin, you break up some of the passages into Hegelian triads of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and finally you memorize them all. I was delighted to learn that there was a small group of people around Professor Imre Ruzsa, who were working on the “bad” sort of logic, and that people who took their classes might be deemed hopeless and get exempted from further edification. (Later I learned that this was because Ruzsa was an old lefty imprisoned both by the semi-fascist Horthy regime before the war and the Stalinist Rákosi regime afterwards, and this fact bought him a kind of political immunity in the soft dictatorship of the Kádár regime.) Ruzsa’s classes were wonderful: carefully constructed, systematic, intellectually ambitious. But what made the biggest impact on me was the incredible community of young philosophers, mathematicians, logicians, and linguists who found common themes in discussing Kleene’s three-valued logics, Montague Grammar, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, or Diodorus Chronus’s Ruling Argument. Here is where I found my intellectual home.
The third teacher who guided me towards philosophy was George Boolos. He came to Budapest in 1990, gave a great talk (on the logic or provability), and we had a fantastic conversation afterwards. At that point, there was no graduate school in Hungary and he encouraged me to apply to MIT. Decades later I learned that the reason I got in (given the fact that my transcript made no sense) was that George vouched for me – he confirmed that I actually existed, that my English was good enough that I could have written my writing sample, and that in Budapest I had explained to him in an intelligent manner why everyone was suddenly interested in the sentence ‘If a farmer owns a donkey, he beats it’. His classes at MIT were exemplary. His attitude – a combination of seriousness and playfulness, a disdain for obfuscation, and a relentless drive to reach the heart of each problem – is what confirmed for me that philosophy is worth doing.
3:16: You’re a philosopher of language. Can you explain what the relationship is between this and linguistics? I guess I’m wondering why philosophy of language is needed if linguistics is a mature science?
ZS: Mathematics and physics are as mature as any intellectual pursuit has ever gotten but there is no shortage of philosophical questions surrounding them. I don’t think that’s because science (I use this word like the German “Wissenschaft”, so mathematics is definitely included) and philosophy differ in their subject matter or in their methodology. Rather, it’s because the subject matter of any broad scientific enterprise is for all intents and purposes inexhaustible, and because no serious scientist is closed-minded about methodology. Scientists typically select well-understood questions and employ well-tried techniques to answer them. Philosophers don’t do that – they get to explore beyond the bounds scientists would venture, but they pay the price by often going in circles or getting lost.
Linguistics is not a mature science, although it is arguably on the path to becoming one. If and when it gets there, it will relate to philosophy of linguistics the way mathematics relates to the philosophy of mathematics and physics relates to philosophy of physics. For now, there is a discipline distinct from philosophy of linguistics that explores the issue of whether linguistics as a science is even possible, and whether the fundamental assumptions in the background of current linguistics stand up to scrutiny. This is what I think we can call philosophy of language. Some of its practitioners think contemporary linguistics is a misguided project – some deny that natural languages have a recursive syntax, some doubt it has a compositional semantics, some doubt the existence of norms of conversation. That’s not my way of thinking but I can see why some might hold such a view. To reject the achievements of modern linguistics is not like rejecting set theory or general relativity.
3:16: One issue you’re interested in is that of interpretation and whether context is important. Just to get us orientated with the discussion, why do some philosophers think context is theoretically important and others don’t? Is this an issue that carves the debate between semantics and pragmatics at its joint so to speak? Could you sketch what that debate is as well?
ZS: The standard Lockean model of communication is that one encodes a thought in words and passes the words to another who then decodes the signal to get hold of the original thought. What makes this possible is shared linguistic knowledge. The trouble is, this model breaks in many simple cases. I say ‘I am hungry’ and you understand me even though knowing the meaning of ‘I’, ‘am’, and ‘hungry’ plus the syntax of predication does not tell you who I am ascribing hunger to. To know that, you also have to know that I am the one who is speaking. This is not linguistic knowledge – it is knowledge of context.
It is not clear how bad this problem is. The conservative view is that it concerns just a handful of expressions (‘this’, ‘that’, ‘here’, ‘now’, ‘current’, ‘local’, etc.) and that the contextual knowledge we need for communication can be obtained by attending to the surroundings of their use. If so, the Lockean model is fine: it just needs a patch. The radical view is that these expressions are just the tip of the iceberg – most, or perhaps all expressions are context-sensitive, and there is no systematic way to characterize what it takes to understand their uses. If that is right, the Lockean model is bunk. Most of us want to be moderates but there is a worry that there is no real middle ground here.
What we want is a theory of linguistic communication. What we have are two crucial ingredients: semantics, which studies linguistic meaning and pragmatics, which studies conversational norms. Both linguistic meaning and conversational norms are independent of particular context since people normally already know them before they make their utterances. To properly link semantics and pragmatics within a theory of communication we would need to say something about the knowledge speaker and hearer obtain on the spot as communication unfolds – we would need a theory of conversational dynamics. We have but the barest outlines of such a theory.
3:16: Are knowledge ascriptions context sensitive and does any possible epistemic contextualism face the problem of a lack of an orthodox semantic implementation?
ZS: A lot of the debates in philosophy of language concern whether some philosophically interesting word (‘know’, ‘free’, cause’, ‘self’, ‘true’, etc.) is context-sensitive. There is no general consensus how to address these questions and it sometimes feels like these debates are hopeless – some claiming context-sensitivity just to solve a philosophical puzzle, others denying it just to block the solution. But when you are addressing a straightforwardly linguistic question – which these clearly are – I think there should be some ground rules. We have fairly well established categories of context-sensitive expressions whose semantic behavior is reasonably well understood. The thing to do is to see whether the behavior of the philosophically exciting word fits in the relevant respect one of those categories. Jonathan Schaffer and I have tried to do this in our joint paper ‘Epistemic Comparativism’. ‘Know’ is often analogized to indexical pronouns, gradable adjectives, or quantificational determiners. We argue that none of these is analogies is apt. Rather, ‘know’ behaves in some crucial respects like an adverb of quantification. Then we adjust an off-the-shelf account of adverbs of quantification to provide an outline of a plausible contextualist semantics for knowledge-ascriptions.
3:16: Paul Grice is the person we think of when we’re trying to understand indirect communication. Can you first say what the debate is about between those who say there are indirect implicatures and those that don’t?
ZS: Grice criticizes the Lockean model, arguing that communication can, and frequently does, involve more than the simple encoding and decoding of thoughts. By saying something, speakers often suggest something else, which also gets communicated. Many of these suggestions – Grice callas them conversational implicatures – are conveyed through reasoning the speaker anticipates the hearer will perform based on what the sentence means plus the presumption of shared rationality and cooperativity.
Grice’s arguments have persuaded most philosophers that conversational implicature is real and ubiquitous, but dissenters remain. To give a feel of why people might think there is something fishy about conversational implicature, consider the following problem I picked up from Gennaro Chierchia.
Just as someone uttering (1) suggests that not all the stores are closed, someone uttering (2) seems to suggest that Irina believes this.
(1) Many of the stores are closed.
(2) Irina believes many of the stores are closed.
For Grice, the first suggestion is a conversational implicature recognized through something like the following reasoning: If the speaker thought all of the stores are closed, she should have said so. Since she didn’t say so (and since she is presumed rational, cooperative, and knowledgeable on the topic) it isn’t so. In the case of the second suggestion, the analogous reasoning gets us to the conclusion that Irina does not believe all of the stores are closed. But that’s not what we want: the suggestion is that Irina believes not all of the stores are closed – negation inside the scope of the attitude verb. There seems to be no Gricean reasoning that will get us there.
Griceans might say that the first suggestion is conversational implicature and the second is something else – but that seems contrived (especially if they present no account of how this other kind of suggestion is supposed to be communicated). Lockeans have a better proposal. They say that (1) is ambiguous. It has the reading we all think it does and in addition it has a reading paraphraseable as ‘Many but not all of the stores are closed.’ (The ambiguity might be the result of an optional exhaustivity operator.) The stronger reading is the dominant one but if (1) is followed with something like ‘… but some are open’ it is clear that the speaker intends the weaker reading. If that is right, what Griceans call conversational implicature is just a mirage created by ambiguity. Followers of Grice might try to wield his famous Modified Occam’s Razor: ‘Senses are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’. But followers of Locke can hide behind the shield of Alethic Modality: ‘We do it here because it is necessary.’
3:16: Can we really entirely reduce the notion of conversational implicature to disambiguation or creative interpretation? Are you with Grice or Locke in this debate?
ZS: I concede that Grice and his followers overestimated the scope of the phenomenon of conversational implicature. I don’t think, as the orthodox Gricean would, that when we use a metaphor there is a specific content we intend to convey and I acknowledge, as the orthodox Gricean would not, that sentences used to express indirect requests may well be ambiguous. Still, I think many of Grice’s classic examples (e.g the letter of recommendation or the motorist looking for a garage in ‘Logic and Conversation’) are bona fide conversational implicatures.
But suppose I am wrong about this and there is really no such thing as conversational implicature. Even so, the Lockean model is not fully adequate. Communication involves more than encoding, decoding, and disambiguation because communication is not essentially linguistic, not even essentially conventional. A child can run down a grocery store aisle, stop in front of a big box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, turn back and smile at her father. This is a perfectly good way to ask for the sweet. The child meant something by her action and she expects her father to figure out what. He can do that relying on assumptions of rationality, cooperativity, and a modicum of shared background knowledge. The reasoning here is much like what Grice posits for conversational implicatures, except that we cut out appeal to “what was said” and rely simply on “what was done.” Language and other systems of conventional signs are add-ons that extend the scope of communication.
3:16: You’ve written about Robert Stalnaker’s middle course. What does Stalnaker argue for when he discusses prospective interpretation and are you broadly in sympathy with this position?
ZS: Interpretation is prospective when it is relativized to the context not as it is at the time of utterance but as it is expected to be somewhat later. A sentence in a letter starting with ‘Now that you read this, …’ is interpreted prospectively. But Stalnaker thinks prospective interpretation is much more ubiquitous than just this sort of special case. I think he is right and I think it matters that he is. Let me step back and try to explain.
The heart of the Gricean view is a bold and surprising claim – that all conversation is cooperative. When an accuser interrogates a suspect, when a merchant tries to cut a bargain, when a provocateur tries to incite a riot, we have verbal exchanges with parties whose ultimate goals do not align. But if Grice is right, there must be some common goal that underlies even these exchanges. Why think that? Because they accommodate each other as they speak. Here is an example from David Lewis. ‘Come’ and ‘go’ are context-sensitive – they mean something like moving toward and away from a point of reference given by the context. The reference point can change within a narrative:
When the beggars came to town, the rich folk went to the shore. But soon the beggars came after them, so they went home.
The reference point in the first sentence is in the town; in the second, it is the shore. The reason the reference point shifts if that the hearer recognizes that’s what it takes to make the speaker’s utterance felicitous. Adjusting the context to make another’s utterance felicitous is clearly cooperative behavior. And it seems that the hearer would do this even in an antagonistic conversation.
What is the mechanism of accommodation? Lewis thinks it involves some sort of pretense: the speaker speaks as if the context is different from what it actually is. It also involves a special rule: if shifting the context can ensure the felicity of an utterance then – ceteris paribus and within certain limits – context must shift. This sounds a bit like the workings of divine grace according to Pascal – if you don’t have faith, pretend that you do and – ceteris paribus and within certain limits – you will.
Not surprisingly, not everyone buys the idea that the interpretation of this little two-sentence involves all this. Stalnaker offers an alternative that cuts out both the pretense and the special rule. It goes like this: When the speaker describes the movement of the beggars in the second sentence as a coming she does not act as if the reference point had already shifted to the shore – she reveals that she takes it that it will have shifted by the time the hearer registers the utterance. The hearer recognizes this and adopts the same attitude, which brings about the context shift and assures – retroactively – that the utterance has been felicitous. It’s all just prospective interpretation.
3:16: Compositionality raises interesting philosophical issues doesn’t it? Could you sketch for us what this is and why it’s so interesting philosophically?
ZS: The principle of compostionality – that the meaning of a complex expression is determined by the meanings of its constituents and the way those constituents are combined – is neither particularly interesting nor particularly controversial. It is obvious that the meaning of ‘Cats chase dogs’ depends on what ‘cats’, ‘chase’, and ‘dogs’ mean (if any of them meant something else, so would the sentence) as well as the structure of the sentence (which is why ‘Dogs chase cats’ means something different). And it’s not obvious that the meaning of ‘Cats chase dogs’ depends on anything else – the sensible null hypothesis is that it does not. Of course, if we make controversial assumptions about lexical semantics and syntax – e.g. that the meaning of ‘chase’ is a binary relation or that ‘cats’ and ‘dogs’ do not contain any hidden syntactic complexity – we can make it very hard to satisfy compostionality. But why blame compositionality for that?
What is interesting and controversial are various strengthenings of the principle of compositionality. Linguists tend to assume that the meaning of complex expressions depend solely on the meanings of their immediate constituents and the way they are combined. The assumption implies that if we had a word that meant just what the phrase ‘chase dogs’ means (let’s call it ‘houndhunt’) then substituting the former for the latter would not affect the meaning of the sentence. This does not follow from the compositionality – the meaning of ‘Cats chase dogs’ depends of the meaning of ‘dogs’ but the meaning of ‘Cats houndhunt’ need not (since ‘dog’ is not a constituent in this sentence).
Philosophers have views on meaning atomism – the claim that complex expressions mean what they do because of what their constituents mean and how those constituents combine. This rules out any sort of top down explanation of meaning, including the sensible idea that the meanings of ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘every’ and ‘some’ can be explained through inferential roles. Meaning atomism is super-interesting and hyper-controversial but it does not follow from the principle of compositionality.
3:16: Are Fodor and Lepore right to argue that compositionality also is difficult if not impossible to square with meaning semantic holism and the sorts of theories proposed by thinkers such as Brandom, Davidson, the Churchlands and some AI theorists?
ZS: Fodor and Lepore are wrong about this. Compositionality is compatible even with the most extreme form of meaning holism, according to which every expression means what it does for the same reason – that there is a certain convention that settles the meanings of all expressions of a language spoken by a population and that the expression belongs to that language. But Fodor and Lepore are right that if we accept both compositionality and its reverse (i.e. the claim that the meaning of a complex expression determines the meanings of its constituents and the way those constituent combine) we are just a small dialectical hop away from endorsing meaning atomism. The problem is that reverse compositionality is pretty implausible. It implies, for example, that (supposing we have the word ‘houndhunt’) the fact that ‘Cats houdhunt’ means that cats chase dogs explains why ‘dog’ means what it does. There are some clever arguments for reverse compositionality – Fodor and Lepore present some, Peter Pagin has others – but these are far less compelling than the considerations backing compositionality.
My own view is that both meaning atomism and meaning holism are false. Semantic explanations do not have a uniform direction – they are mostly bottom up but the meanings of functional items are explained by appeal to the meanings of certain larger expressions in which they occur.
3:16: So what are intensional analyses of the progressive about and what’s at stake? And why do you think they fail?
ZS: Philosophers have paid surprisingly little heed to aspect, especially compared to tense. Tense matters for philosophy, since it is our primary way of talking about time. But aspect matters too – it is our primary way of talking about how things unfold in time. The progressive aspect is what natural languages use to talk about processes – when we say ‘Luca was building a house’ we describe a process, when we say ‘Luca built a house’ we describe what this process led to. So, how exactly do these two sentences differ in their meaning?
The dominant view in semantics is that the former could be analyzed in terms of the latter. Very roughly, Luca was building a house if he was doing something and at time it was the case that had this activity continued it would eventually have been the case that he built a house. To pin down the relevant sort of modal hidden in the subjunctive conditional is hard and there are many subtly different versions of the modal account. But they are all committed to the principle that if something is happening (is in progress) then it could have happened (been completed). I think this principle is false: it can be true that someone was enumerating the primes but it cannot be true that she enumerated them. I have other examples but unfortunately, they did not convince many.
My view is that we should reverse the order of analysis – instead of analyzing progressive sentences in terms of their perfective counterparts we should proceed the other way around. This can also help explaining why ‘Luca built a house’ entails ‘Luca was building a house’ which is hard to do if we choose the modal approach.
3:16: If the lexical items of logic and grammar were totally distinct, what problem would that cause? You actually think there is substantial overlap however don’t you? How do you reach that conclusion given that, in the lexicon, grammar looks for items like nouns, verbs, and prepositions while logic sees items like predicates, connectives, and quantifiers?
ZS: The relationship between natural and formal languages is perplexing. On the face of it, their grammatical categories are entirely distinct. In the lexicon, natural languages have a division between functional items and content words, the latter category being subdivided into nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, while most formal languages have a division between variables and constants, constants being subdivided into logical and non-logical. Among complex expressions, natural languages have phrases and sentences; most formal languages have terms and formulae. Still, we tend to act as if this divide did not exist. We speak of the logical connectives of English, we call formulae without unbound variables sentences. When we have to explain what a variable is we say it’s like a pronoun; when we have to explain what a pronoun is we say it’s like a variable.
Part of the problem is with the assumption that grammatical categories should be defined distributionally (part of what it is to be a noun is to combine with determiners, part of what it is to be quantifier is to be followed by a variable and then a formula, etc.) I think distributional properties are superficial and that grammatical categories must have some underlying unity. I think this underlying unity is semantic – grammatical categories are expressions with the same kind of meaning. Frege thought this too – he thought, for example, that singular terms are those and only those expressions that refer to objects and one-place predicates are those and only those expressions that refer to functions from objects to truth-values. I part from Frege in refusing to think of grammatical categories in ontological terms – in my view, what distinguishes a singular term from one-place predicate not what it refers to but how it refers to whatever I does. I give definitions of what it is to be a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb that is supposed to be applicable to natural and formal languages alike. It entails, for example, that the variables of the language of first-order logic are adjectives and the one-place predicates are verbs.
3:16: And what are quantifiers?
ZS: Very roughly, you are quantifier if whenever you occur unembedded in a sentence where the truth-value of this sentence depends solely on how many positive and negative instances it has. So for example, ‘most’ is a quantifier because whether a sentence like ‘Most dogs bark’ is true depends only on how many things there are of which ‘This dog barks’ is true and how many of which it is false. By contrast, ‘My’ is not a quantifier because truth or falsity of a sentence like ‘My dog barks’ is true is not determined this way. It matters which of the dogs is mine, and that is not a question of quantity.
As before, the main virtue of this approach of identifying quantifiers is that it applies to both natural and formal languages – for example, I can show that an S5 modal operator is a quantifier but an S4 modal operator is not. What depends on parochial features of the syntax of a language is how instancehood should be defined.
3:16: You’ve also thought about fictionalism. Can you sketch what are the interesting philosophical issues arising from trying to understand what’s going on in this domain?
ZS: What got me interested in fictionalism is something that bothered me ever since I started to think about semantics. There are excellent reasons to think that any good semantic theory of English should entail (3) and (4):
(3) ‘Santa Claus lives on a North Pole’ is true iff Santa Claus lives on the North Pole
(4) ‘Santa Claus’ refers to Santa Claus
There are excellent reasons to think that (3) and (4) cannot be true unless Santa Claus exists. There are excellent reasons to think Santa Claus does not exist. These excellent reasons together make me think that any good semantic theory of English is false. That tells me that I should not believe such a theory. So, what exactly should be my attitude towards it?
My predicament is not unique. Some philosophers don’t think there are abstracta, or unobservables, or things of inherent value, so they don’t believe mathematics, physics, or ethics. At the same time, they are as convinced as the rest of us that these theories are in good order. Fictionalism tells all of us what to do: accept the theories without belief. This sounds like a great advice, but without some further elucidation, it is hard to know how one might follow it. Acceptance is something subtly weaker than belief but still close enough to play much of belief’s functional role, including motivation of certain kinds of actions. Is it belief with reservations or qualifications? Is it a kind of pretense or make-belief? Is it bad faith? In the last thirty years, fictionalists have come up with a number of different ways of thinking about this attitude but, in my view, none of them succeeds in making the fictionalist recommendation simultaneously clear and sensible.
3:16: Are Moorean sentences still problematic for popular approaches to fictionalism as you said they were nearly twenty years ago – and how do you think we should approach the problem?
ZS: Fictionalists about semantics have no problem explaining why they don’t go around asserting that ‘Santa Claus’ refers to Santa Claus but they don’t believe this. This is a conjunction whose first conjunct they don’t believe, and they have no business asserting such a thing. The problem is that when they are doing semantics, they utter sentences like “Santa Claus’ refers to Santa Claus’ and they perform some sort of assertion-like speech act (call it advancing) in doing so. Advancing (but not asserting) that ‘Santa Claus’ refers to Santa Claus is fine, presumably, because fictionalists about semantics accept (but don’t believe) that ‘Santa Claus’ refers to Santa Claus. They also believe that they don’t believe this, and since acceptance is weaker than belief, they accept that they don’t believe this. So, one might think, it should be fine for them to advance that ‘Santa Claus’ refers to Santa Claus but they don’t believe this. But it wouldn’t be – sincerely uttering sentences of the form ‘ but I don’t believe that ’ is bad form, even if you are doing semantics. This is just a puzzle and I can think of several ways fictionalists might respond to it. But I think it points at a deep tension in fictionalism.
3:16: As a take home, are there five books you could recommend for the curious readers here at 3:16 that will take us further into your philosophical world?
ZS: Here are the four books in the philosophy of language that made the biggest impact on my thinking in the last couple of years. I warmly recommend them all.
Friederike Moltmann, Abstract Objects and the Semantics of Natural Language
Paul Pietroski, Conjoining-Meanings
Mark Richard, Meanings as Species
Stephen Yablo, Aboutness
As my fifth recommendation, I’d like to mention a whole series – Oxford Surveys in Semantics and Pragmatics, edited by the two great Chrises – Barker and Kennedy. If you want to have a sense of the state of the art on a topic like reference, modality, mood, questions, intonation, or if you want to learn about this shining new thing, inquisitive semantics – there is no better place to go.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Richard Marshall is biding his time.
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