The dynamic lexicon in a truth-conditional framework; or how to have Your cake and eat it

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A fundamental principle of all truth-conditional approaches to semantics is that the meanings of sentences of natural language can be compositionally specified in terms of truth conditions, where the meanings of the sentences’ parts (words/lexical items) are specified in terms of the contribution they make to such conditions their host sentences possess. Thus, meanings of words fit the meanings of sentences at least to the extent that the stability of what a sentence might mean as specified in a theory is in accord with the stability of what a word might mean as similarly specified. In this paper, I shall be concerned with Ludlow’s (2014Ludlow, Peter. 2014. Living Words: Meaning Underdetermination and the Dynamic Lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.[Crossref], , [Google Scholar]) idea that, in fact, there need be no such sympathy between words and sentences. He proposes that we can square what he calls a dynamic lexicon, where word meaning is not stable at all, with a traditional truth-conditional approach of the kind indicated, where sentence meaning is delivered via ‘absolute truth conditions’. I share Ludlow’s aspiration to accommodate dynamic features of word meaning with a truth conditional approach, but not his belief that the marriage is an easy deal. Thus, I shall present a problem for Ludlow’s position and show how resolving this problem leads to an alternative picture of how the meaning of a sentence may be truth-conditionally specified with all relevant dynamic features of the lexicon retained.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-343
Issue number3
Early online date13 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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