Explaining gaps in the logical lexicon of natural languages

A decision-theoretic perspective on the square of Aristotle


Émile Enguehard, Benjamin Spector

Full paper in pdf


Across languages, certain logically natural concepts are not lexicalized, even though theycan be expressed by complex expressions. This is for instance the case for the quantifier ‘not all’. In this paper, we propose an explanation for this fact based on the following idea: the logical lexicon of languages is partly shaped by a tradeoff betweeninformativity and cost, and the inventory of logical expressions tends to maximize average informativity and minimize average cost. The account we propose is based on a decision-theoretic model of how speakerschoose their messages in various situations (a modified version of the Rational Speech Act model).