A plea for equality: commentary on "truthmaker semantics for natural language"

Patrick D. Elliott

Abstract. In “Truthmaker Semantics for Natural Language”, Moltmann (2020) develops a unified account of a variety of phenomena of interest to both philosophers of language and linguistic semanticists, such as attitude reports, modals, and intensional transitive verbs, in terms of object-based truthmaker semantics — a version of Fine's (2017a, 2017b, 2017c) truthmaker semantics, which expands the purview of verification/falsification from sentences to attitudinal and modal objects. As such, Moltmann's account requires a significant enrichment of the fairly austere ontology standardly assumed by semanticists, but arguably delivers concomitant conceptual and empirical gains. From a linguistic perspective, there are many reasons to find the notion of content delivered by truthmaker semantics attractive. For example, it provides a natural notion partial content which tracks speaker intuitions, as discussed extensively by Yablo (2014), and touched upon by Moltmannn. Here, I’ll take it as a given that an account of, e.g., attitude reports using the apparatus of truthmaker semantics is a worthwhile enterprise. The primary focus here will be on the precise semantics that Moltmann suggests for that-clauses. I’ll argue that a semantics in terms of partial content fails to account for a range of facts concerning attitude reports, as well as clausal modifiers of content nouns. Rather, i’ll suggest that a semantics for that-clauses based on equality of content is preferable.

Keywords: truthmaker semantics, clausal embedding, content

Download pdf on lingbuzz