Blurb by Dale Jacquette

"A remarkable new approach to semantic theory.  With a refreshing emphasis on meaning as the expression of attitude, Paul Saka… demonstrates the power of his cognitive analysis in theory and in a surprising and satisfying selection of important linguistic applications.  Technically exact, highly readable, and illustrated with valuable examples from many contexts of language use, here is a book to counterbalance decades of misdirected anti-psychologistic semantic dogma."


My book articulates, applies, and defends a new theory of natural-language meaning, one that differs from the regnant paradigm of truth-conditional semantics. If it is correct, our understanding of linguistic and mental content will require significant revision.

According to orthodox semantics, the meaning of a statement can be given in terms of its truth-conditions. For example, in order for (1) to be true, it is necessary and sufficient that John be an unmarried (or never married?) male. Thus, the meaning of (1) might be represented as (2).

(1) John is a bachelor.
(2) John is a bachelor iff John is an unmarried male.

Notice that (2), so far as it goes, analyzes sentence-meaning independently of context. It treats "John is a bachelor" as an abstract object, divorced from such social and cognitive factors as: Who is uttering the expression? Who is doing the listening? What does the speaker believe about the listener's state of mind, and what does the listener believe about the speaker's?

In contrast, I propose that the role of the interpreter must explicitly appear in all analytic biconditionals. To put it loosely, the relation between the interpreter and the interpretant may be that of belief, conviction, suspicion, doubt, hope, desire, or any other propositional attitude. Abbreviating the anglophone subject as S, then, I posit the following ATTITUDE-CONDITIONS as a partial analysis of (1):

(3) S believes that John is a bachelor iff S believes that John is an unmarried male.

Instead of specifying the necessary and sufficient conditions under which (1) is true, psychologistic semantics specifies the conditions under which (1) is thought to be true.

This approach is motivated both by theoretical considerations (part one) and by its practical success in dealing with recalcitrant phenomena in the theory of meaning. These include: presuppositions as found in pejorative speech (chapter five); the problem of how to represent ambiguity (chapter six); the theory of quotation (chapter seven); and the liar paradox, which prima facie refutes the T-schema (chapter eight). Finally, I explore elements in the clash between realism and irrealism (chapter four).