Linguae lectures 2023

Questions, answers, and the typology of logical connectives (joint work with Moysh Bar-Lev)

Practical information
31 May 2023

ENS, salle Paul Langevin, 29 rue d'Ulm, 1st floor


Why are AND and OR the only binary connectives that are lexicalized as simplex? Horn (1972), who first observed this striking typological fact, suggested an account that relied on communicative considerations, and in particular on the strengthening of utterances in conversation through scalar implicature. Much subsequent work on Horn’s pattern has adopted this idea, and we will make use of it in this talk. We start from the observation in Bar-Lev & Katzir (2022) that AND and OR are the only connectives for which exhaustification excludes alternatives that are logically independent of the connectives’ arguments. We consider this observation in light of a particular view on communicative success according to which it is better if a speaker's utterance can convey their epistemic attitude towards each cell in the question under discussion. We show that on this view, AND and OR are the only connectives that result in successful communication when logically-independent alternatives are under consideration. Moreover, we show that this communicative advantage of AND and OR would be lost if they had other connectives as alternatives; this paves the way for explaining not only why lexicalization of AND and OR is very common cross-linguistically, but also why other connectives are never lexicalized as simplex.

Roni Katzir  will give two talks on May 31st and June 1st.

Informal discussion:
"Large Language Models, the view from linguistics"
Wednesday, 31st May - 1pm-2pm
ENS, salle Paul Langevin, 29 rue d'Ulm, 1st floor