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SEMANTIC COMPLEXITY

By Maite Ezcurdia

Abstract

Stephen Neale (1993a, 1993b and 2007) has made a bold empirical claim about the nature of noun phrases in natural language, namely, that noun phrases are either semantically structured restricted quantifiers or semantically unstructured rigidly referring expressions. I shall call this ‘The Noun Phrase Thesis ’ or ‘NPT’. The thesis is certainly bold for there seem to be straightforward counterexamples to it, some of the most immediate being complex demonstratives and complex names as ‘Russell and Whitehead’. In fact, much ink has been spilled trying to show that this thesis is incorrect. Some have argued that contrary to what Russellians think definite descriptions do not always behave like restricted quantifiers but rather that they sometimes behave as singular terms, more particularly, as complex referring expressions. 1 Others have focussed on the case of complex demonstratives, that is, expressions that have the form That N ’ or This N’, 2 where ‘N’ ’ is a common noun or nominal, 3 as in ‘That cat on the mat ’ or ‘This book’. The claim is that complex demonstratives are rigidly referring expressions, just like simple demonstratives (for example, ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘those’, ‘these’), but unlike them they exhibit some semantic structure. 4 It is not, however, that Neale was not aware of the possible counterexamples when proposing NPT, but rather he viewed NPT as an altogether plausible thesis which could handle the various alleged counterexamples. He himself has offered various ways of accommodating complex demonstratives, either by holding that they are essentially simple demonstrative

Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.134.2961
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