The Nature of Linguistic Variables

Collins, John (2014) The Nature of Linguistic Variables. In: Oxford Handbooks Online. Oxford University Press.

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The concept of a variable is central to a range of explanations in linguistics and the philosophy of language, especially pertaining to quantification and so-called ‘empty categories’. The notion however, is in need of disambiguation. My aim is to remove the ambiguity by first settling on a formal characterization of a variable and then distinguishing between three grades of variable involvement: variables as theoretical artifacts, as features of semantic representations, or as syntactically realized items. I shall suggest that the first grade is relatively innocent, although unfortunately often wedded to a general antirealism about syntax. The second semantic grade, however, is difficult to evaluate on its own terms. The best case for semantic variables is for the third grade to be vindicated, but the evidence for syntactically realized variables is weak and if the notion of a variable is the formal concept, the position is conceptually problematic. The notion of a linguistic variable therefore remains to be properly explained.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: variables,quantification,empty categories,syntax,semantics
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Philosophy
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2016 16:00
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 10:39
DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935314.013.004

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