A revised and updated version of Yuriy Tarnawsky’s 1982 NYU PhD dissertation Knowledge Semantics is being made available for reading on the NYU Linguistics Department website (view abstract, or full version). The theory developed in the dissertation, called a knowledge-based theory or knowledge semantics, argues against decompositional semantics and is based on the premise that the meaning of a sentence depends on the knowledge of the interpreter and that it includes logical and factual entailments and presuppositions. According to the theory, it is impossible to define meaning, since any definition must be a mere paraphrase. Consequently, the theory describes only the processes operating during semantic interpretation in terms of an arbitrary knowledge base, representing the knowledge of the interpreter. It also defines the processes necessary for meaning acquisition and extension. A Ukrainian-language version of the dissertation was published in 2016 by the National University of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine.
The updated text includes a preface by Prof. Ray Dougherty, the advisor of original dissertation, and an author’s foreword by Yuriy Tarnawsky.
In his preface, Prof. Dougherty states,
“Dr. Tarnawsky’s dissertation, with its strong emphasis on the ‘social and contextual usage’ of sentences falls squarely into the camp of Putnam, who was rarely discussed by Chomsky MIT linguists. Dr. Tarnawsky’s dissertation ran counter to 99 percent of semantic research in the Chomsky MIT school of linguistics. It was revolutionary in offering a novel perspective and a detailed computational theory that merged Chomsky’s and Putnam’s views. [...It] might well have been the first work to integrate Putnam’s and Chomsky’s approaches into one formulation.”
Comments may be sent to Yuriy Tarnawsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.