Robert May

Robert May is Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, Linguistics, and Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. Fiengo and May are the authors of Indices and Identity (MIT Press, 1994).

  • De Lingua Belief

    De Lingua Belief

    Robert Fiengo and Robert May

    An investigation into the beliefs speakers have about language—their de lingua beliefs—that examines the genesis of these beliefs and the central explanatory role they play in the use and understanding of language.

    Speakers, in their everyday conversations, use language to talk about language. They may wonder about what words mean, to whom a name refers, whether a sentence is true. They may worry whether they have been clear, or correctly expressed what they meant to say. That speakers can make such inquiries implies a degree of access to the complex array of knowledge and skills underlying our ability to speak, and though this access is incomplete, we nevertheless can form on this basis beliefs about linguistic matters of considerable subtlety, about ourselves and others. It is beliefs of this sort—de lingua beliefs—that Robert Fiengo and Robert May explore in this book.

    Fiengo and May focus on the beliefs speakers have about the semantic values of linguistic expressions, exploring the genesis of these beliefs and the explanatory roles they play in how speakers use and understand language. Fiengo and May examine the resources available to speakers for generating linguistic beliefs, considering how linguistic theory characterizes the formal, syntactic identity of the expressions linguistic beliefs are about and how this affects speakers' beliefs about coreference. Their key insight is that the content of beliefs about semantic values can be taken as part of what we say by our utterances. This has direct consequences, examined in detail by Fiengo and May, for explaining the informativeness of identity statements and the possibilities for substitution in attributions of propositional attitudes, cases in which speakers' beliefs about coreference play a central role.

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  • Indices and Identity

    Indices and Identity

    Robert Fiengo and Robert May

    Under what conditions are expressions of a language the same; when are they different? Indices and Identity focuses on this question in the context of the theory of anaphora and on the role of indices in characterizing syntactic and semantic identity of expressions. Fiengo and May develop two main themes within the theory of anaphora. The first pertains to the meaning of coindexing and non-coindexing—the correspondence between indexical relations among expressions and the valuation relation that holds among them—while the second is the development of Dependency Theory, the theory of the relations of occurrences of indices. The novelty of Fiengo and May's approach lies with their characterization of indexical dependencies and the conditions under which structures manifest the same or different dependency. In particular, Indices and Identity emphasizes issues raised by strict and sloppy identity in ellipsis, exploring what Fiengo and May call "the eliminative puzzles of ellipsis." The significance of these puzzles is that they show the shortcomings of current theories of anaphora in ellipsis, while illustrating an application of Dependency Theory to complex cases of strict and sloppy identity. Elliptical contexts in turn lead to consideration of the embedding of the formal syntactic notions of identity arising from indices and dependencies within more general notions of structural identity. This relates to a consideration of the foundations of reconstruction, which, the authors argue, is syntactic identity up to indexical identity and vehicle change—variation in the syntactic form of expression of arguments.The book concludes with a discussion of the relation of reconstruction, logical representation in grammar, and the application of grammatical constraints. The discussion focuses on antecedent contained deletion, and stands independently as a comprehensive study of this construction. Linguistic Inquiry Monograph No. 24

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  • Logical Form

    Logical Form

    Its Structure and Derivation

    Robert May

    This study focuses on the relation of syntactic and semantic structure. It investigates the notion that within generative grammar there is a level of linguistic representation Logical Form. Its main assumption is that this is a level of phrase structure representation, derived by transformational operations from S-structure, and over which formal semantic interpretations are defined.The book explores Logical Form by focusing primarily on quantificational phenomena and on how their explicit syntactic representation interacts with various syntactic and semantic properties. Among the topics discussed are the interactions of wh and quantified phrases, bound variable anaphora, branching quantifiers, extraposition and multiple interrogation. Logical Form contains several technical innovations: the notion that LF-movement closely approximates "Move α," a new approach to characterizing quantifier scope, which makes central use of the notion of "government," a novel interpretation of the relation of syntactic nodes and categorical projections, and an application of path theory to the syntactic structure of Logical Form.

    Logical Form is Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 12.

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