Why We Need Corpus Linguistics in Intuition-Based Semantics

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien

The following method is popular in some areas of philosophy and linguistics when trying to describe the semantics of a given sentence Φ. Present ordinary speakers with scenarios that involve an utterance of Φ, ask them whether these utterances are felicitous or infelicitous and then construct a semantics that assigns the truth-value True to felicitous utterances of Φ and the truth-value False to infelicitous utterances of Φ. The author makes five observations about this intuition-based approach to semantics; their upshot is that it should be revised in favour of a more nuanced method. The author suggests that this method should be based on corpus linguistics and makes some tentative remarks about what it might look like and which questions we need to address in order to develop it.

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