Last Update: 4 February 2007
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Abstract: This essay continues my investigation of "syntactic semantics": the theory that, pace Searle's Chinese-Room Argument, syntax does suffice for semantics (in particular, for the semantics needed for a computational cognitive theory of natural-language understanding). Here, I argue that syntactic semantics (which is internal and first-person) is what has been called a conceptual-role semantics: The meaning of any expression is the role that it plays in the complete system of expressions. Such a "narrow", conceptual-role semantics is the appropriate sort of semantics to account (from an "internal", or first-person perspective) for how a cognitive agent understands language. Some have argued for the primacy of external, or "wide", semantics, while others have argued for a two-factor analysis. But, although two factors can be specifiedone internal and first-person, the other only specifiable in an external, third-person wayonly the internal, first-person one is needed for understanding how someone understands. A truth-conditional semantics can still be provided, but only from a third-person perspective.