Academic Seminar: Language and Thought

Hello fellow linguists! We have exciting news: SLUGS and PCU (Philosophy Course Union) are jointly organizing a seminar on language and thought! We have invited Samuel Jambrović from Linguistics talking about “The semantic type of names” and Eliran Haziza from Philosophy presenting “Bullshit speech acts”. This event will take place on Friday, March 17 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The location is HS610 (Health Science building). Free snacks and drinks will be provided. We hope to see lots of you there!

Sam’s abstract

In English and many other languages, singular names do not require a determiner to serve as arguments (Julia greeted Paul), whereas singular nouns do (*chef greeted artist). Names are generally considered to be individual-denoting expressions, while nouns are property-denoting expressions. Nevertheless, names can appear with determiners (every Julia knows a Paul), and nouns can occur bare (Owl bothered Piglet and Rabbit).

The question is whether names have a uniform semantic type and what it might be. In this talk, I will review the advantages and disadvantages of viewing names as property-denoting expressions and present some novel arguments in favor of this approach. In particular, I will focus on the possible interpretations of bare names, definite descriptions, and pronouns in the presence of modal operators and quantifiers. Bare names behave like definite descriptions in some ways and pronouns in others, suggesting that they are noun-pronoun hybrids, just as their syntax predicts.

Eliran’s abstract

In On Bullshit, Harry Frankfurt famously analyzed bullshit as a kind of indifference to the truth, as saying something without caring whether it’s true. More recently, this analysis has been extended to questions: bullshit questions are ones where the asker isn’t concerned with the truth of the answer. In this talk, I consider whether and how these ideas can be extended to speech acts in general.