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The Science of MeaningEssays on the Metatheory of Natural Language Semantics$
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Derek Ball and Brian Rabern

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198739548

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198739548.001.0001

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Semantics as Model-Based Science

Semantics as Model-Based Science

(p.334) 12 Semantics as Model-Based Science
The Science of Meaning

Seth Yalcin

Oxford University Press

This chapter critiques a number of standard ways of understanding the role of the metalanguage in a semantic theory for natural language, including the idea that disquotation plays a nontrivial role in any explanatory natural language semantics. It then proposes that the best way to understand the role of a semantic metalanguage involves recognizing that semantics is a model-based science. The metalanguage of semantics is language for articulating features of the theorist’s model. Models are understood as mediating instruments—idealized structures used to represent select aspects of the world, aspects the theorist is seeking some theoretical understanding of. The aspect of reality we are seeking some understanding of in semantics is a dimension of human linguistic competence—informally, knowledge of meaning.

Keywords:   semantics, metalanguage, disquotational truth, truth-conditions, model-building, theory-building, scientific theories, model-based science, behaviorism, radical interpretation

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