Arthur Merin

Neg-Raising, Elementary Social Acts, and the Austinian Theory of Meaning

Arbeitspapiere des SFB 340, Bericht Nr. 78 (1996), 30pp.
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A quirk of natural languages, noted by St. Anselm, Quine and Hintikka, is `neg-raising' (NR): the apparent self-duality, with respect to negation, of epistemic or deontic complement-taking predicates including believe, seem, expect, should, intend, want.(E.g. `I don't think that A' being near equivalent to `I think that not-A', etc.) Larry Horn discovered that the items in question are `mid-scalar' on scales of `strength'. This notion is shown to be still in want of further explication. Flaws in Horn's standard 1978/1989 account of Neg-raising are demonstrated. A directly act-denoting, kinematic semantics is proposed for the expression paradigms involved. It hinges on a paradigm of Elementary Social Acts---claim, concession, denial, and retraction---defined by decision-theoretic parameters of contexts, their transformations, groups under composition, and quotient groups. `External' and ` internal' occurences of not map to context- and act-type-changing operations defined in terms of dominance (a.k.a. warrant) and preference. Mid-scalars are explicated as instances of a quotient act-type `suggestion', also representable as a mixture, probabilistic or otherwise, of claim and concession. The analysis predicts the effects of external negation on `weak' and `strong' members of scales, as well as NR for mid-scalars. Rather than rely on metaphoric appeal to operator paradigms in modal logic it offers a formal rationale for the obvious analogy. It exemplifies thereby how a semantics for speech acts, directly in terms of operations on context (and thus arguably in the performative spirit of J.L. Austin), will condition much-debated linguistic data, bypassing the traditional route via truth-conditions. The modal actually and its usage in Leibniz are briefly addressed along the way.
Institut für Maschinelle Sprachverarbeitung
Formale Logik und Sprachphilosophie
University of Stuttgart
Azenbergstr. 12
70174 Stuttgart