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Sources of Meaning: Grounding Formal Semantics

Sources of Meaning: Grounding Formal Semantics

Objective

While formal semantics has established itself as a rigorous field, its impact on the broader cognitive sciences has remained suboptimal. Besides the inherent complexity of formal theories, the reason might be that the data explained are narrowly linguistic. We propose to extend the breadth and explanatory depth of formal semantic theories by testing them against understudied objects. Within language, we study spoken language gestures as well as sign languages, especially in their iconic dimension. Beyond language, we investigate primate gestural and vocal communication, and semantic effects in music. Our goal is threefold. First, we investigate how the typology of semantic operations extends to these new objects. Second, we explore the cognitive underpinnings of these operations in two types of cases: when the extension of a rule to a new type of object provides new constraints on the form of this rule (e.g. the existence of a presupposition triggering mechanism in iconic constructions); and when an expression has cognitive uses beyond language (e.g. raised eyebrows, or increased loudness). Third, we explore possible evolutionary connections among operations found in speech, sign, human and non-human gestures, and music. We will (i) explore gestural counterparts of formal semantic operations found in sign language, (ii) investigate how the rich typology of inferences uncovered by semantics extends to iconic gestures, and (iii) conduct a comparative investigation of this typology for iconic vs. non-iconic inferences in sign language. We will (iv) extend the enterprise beyond humans by exploring how a particular operation, implicatures, extends in animal linguistics, and whether human gestural expressions have counterparts in apes; and we will (v) develop a generalization of iconic semantics that accounts for semantic effects in music. Empirical findings will help develop new theories of how specific inferences (e.g. presuppositions, focus) are triggered.
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Host institution

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

Address

Rue Michel Ange 3
75794 Paris

France

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 2 499 416

Beneficiaries (1)

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CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

France

EU Contribution

€ 2 499 416

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 788077

Status

Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 May 2019

  • End date

    30 April 2024

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 2 499 416

  • EU contribution

    € 2 499 416

Hosted by:

CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE CNRS

France