This paper is a defense of substantive explanations in semantics. I begin by offering a diagnosis of why the view that semantic theories are merely descriptive has been widely accepted in philosophy and I suggest that these grounds are not compelling. Then I argue that semantic explanations don’t have a uniform direction – upwards or downwards the syntactic tree. There is an explanatory division within the lexicon: the meanings of content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) are semantically fundamental, while the meanings of function words (auxiliaries, connectives, copulas, derivational morphemes, determiners, expletives, prepositions, etc.) are derivative.
Friday, March 23, 2018, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm