Fundamentos de semántica composicional

Fundamentos de semántica composicional. By María Victoria Escandell Vidal. (Ariel lingüística.) Barcelona: Ariel, 2004. Pp. 349. ISBN 8434482568. €27.

Reviewed by Luis Alonso-Ovalle, University of Massachusetts

This book is an introduction to formal semantics aimed primarily at a Spanish-speaking audience with little or no background in formal linguistics. The volume is divided into ten chapters, which are conceptually organized in three units. The first three chapters are a broad introduction to some fundamentals of formal semantics (the assumption that the meaning of a sentence is given by its truth conditions, and the importance of the principle of compositionality). The next four chapters introduce an extensional semantics. Ch. 4 considers some basic semantic relations (entailment, logical equivalence, presupposition) and discusses the standard propositional-logic semantics of conjunction, disjunction, and the material conditional. Ch. 5 develops a semantics for a language containing proper names, adjectives, and both transitive and intransitive verbs. Ch. 6 is devoted to generalized quantifiers, and Ch. 7 to the semantics of adjectives (intersective, subsective, intensional) and relative clauses. The book concludes with a lightweight discussion of some intensional constructions. Ch. 8 introduces a Reichenbach-style temporal semantics; Ch. 9 discusses the semantics of some locative and temporal adjuncts, and Ch. 10 some modal constructions, including counterfactual conditionals and propositional attitude predicates. A brief introduction to naive set theory is included in an appendix.

The volume is more an overview of some topics of research in formal semantics than an illustration of the application of formal methods to the analysis of natural language. Its intended audience will find it provides a useful bird’s eye view of the discipline, although a more detailed consideration of the Spanish data is likely to be desired.

Formal semantics has seen an increasing interest in the analysis of languages that have been traditionally underrepresented in the literature. The publication of this book should therefore be welcomed as an opportunity to foster further semantic research on Spanish.