Can formal semantics of linguistics be defined to eliminate semantic paradox?

There was only one person that responded that knew the first thing about formal-semantics. It really seems to me that people having no knowledge of the subject matter should recuse themselves on voting on these posts.

3 Answers 3


If you intend to participate here, you also have to understand the nature of social media answer sites. It's extremely democratic, and not like submitting a paper to a peer-reviewed academic journal, like Linguistics and philosophy. There is no qualifications test for asking, answering, up/downvoting questions and answers, commenting, and voting to close. It is thus in the nature of the beast that people can vote to close because a question is too complicated, too trivial, doesn't show enough research effort, or we don't think that the person has a clue what they are talking about. It is pointless for you to stipulate that people who aren't Kai Fintel or Gennaro Chierchia should not participate in a question.

You have to adjust your expectations. I have many questions that I'd like answers to, but I know the active and likely participants here, so most of those questions I would not ask here, instead I would email colleagues who are in that area, and hope that they would have the time to enlighten me.

It is true that I am not an expert in technical arcana of formal semantics, but I know enough about semantics and linguistic theory to know that your question was contextually unclear. Unclarity is contextual: I didn't understand it, you need to clarify. Your question imported a huge amount of invalid premises, and in my opinion suffers from a fatal misconception of the notion of truth. The remedy is not to angrily denounce participants who you feel don't understand you, instead you should seek an understanding of what causes the problem (why, exactly, was your question closed?). Instead, you are looking for a way to change the nature of SE.

IMO you have to accept SE for what it is.

  • "I didn't understand it, you need to clarify." If the only reason that you did not understand it is your lack of a sufficiently deep knowledge of the subject matter then I cannot reasonably provide your missing prerequisite basis.
    – polcott
    Feb 29, 2020 at 18:09
  • "Your question imported a huge amount of invalid premises, and in my opinion suffers from a fatal misconception of the notion of truth." If would have attempted to use reasoning instead of just down-voting I could have shown the error of your assessment. I have spent 12,000 hours on this stuff since 1997. researchgate.net/publication/…
    – polcott
    Feb 29, 2020 at 18:10
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    Applying your criteria, you should not comment on my answer since you did not demonstrably use reasoning in your assertion that I did not use reasoning (as opposed to what, emotion??). If you do not understand my answer, I cannot reasonably provide any further clarification. Or, if you are not interested in understanding my answer, I cannot reasonably help you to resolve your problem
    – user6726
    Feb 29, 2020 at 18:49
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    "Your question imported a huge amount of invalid premises, and in my opinion suffers from a fatal misconception of the notion of truth." This is a dogmatic assertion utterly bereft of any supporting reasoning.
    – polcott
    Feb 29, 2020 at 19:19
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    "IMO you have to accept SE for what it is." Why do I have to do that? I don't.
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 2, 2020 at 18:53
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    Do you have a reasonable belief that you can change the nature of SE? How do you propose to change it? Or do you just plan to be angry about how SE is?
    – user6726
    Mar 2, 2020 at 19:02

Close-voting is a democratic process, every user with sufficient reputation is and will continue to be allowed to close-vote on all questions on this site, and most people use this power very responsibly. If 5 users, who have been active on this site for several years and demonstrated their subject competence through numerous positively received answers, independently decide that a question as currently worded needs improvement or is simply not a fit for this site, this is a strong indication that it actually is. Formal semantics is my field of focus, and I entirely agree on the close decision and the reasons given, even after your follow-up comments. Unless my moderator colleagues or other users have serious concerns, you will have to accept the decision made by the community. The majority and the experienced is who decide, and most of the time they know what they're doing.

If you are convinced that a close-action was unjustified, flag the post and the moderators will have a look at it. Provide objective reasons why you think the close was unjust, and explain how your question as currently worded does fit on the site. If the answer is still no, accept it. Most importantly, before you take any action, read and understand the reasons given for the post to be closed. Try to see why the others may indeed be right.

Attacking individual users disguised as a question is neither tactful nor useful. Instead of questioning high-rep members' competence and suggesting to cut on users' right to vote, why don't you instead try to take up on our suggestions? Your recently closed questions would be a fine fit for Philosophy SE, one of them I even migrated there for you, and users there would certainly be happy to answer them if you follow up on the comments to further clarify what it is you want to know about. Why would you prefer getting yourself and everyone else upset if the alternative is the chance of a well-received question with good answers?

We don't close questions to annoy you; noone has an interest in annoying you. We close questions because we want this site to be a good one, and putting questions on hold that don't meet certain requirements is a necessary process to maintain a productive exchange. We want you to ask questions. But we need you to ask them in a way that makes them actually answerable, and about a topic that this community agreed on to deal with. Trying to understand the close reasons and following up on the suggestions made by experienced and well-meaning users (remember that we are all here to help for free!) is how to get there.

  • It might be most fruitful to me if you and I could have a dialogue to discuss these things. These things seem best discussed within the context of the equivalent of Montague semantics and I have never been able to have any dialogue with anyone that knew anything about this.
    – polcott
    Feb 28, 2020 at 2:44
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    If you don't intend to ask questions that are objectively answerable within a few sentences and instead want to discuss and get feedback on your ideas, then you are on the completely wrong platform here. Stack Exchange is not a review and discussion forum, it's a Q&A site. Pseudo-questions that don't go beyond "What do you think of my proposal?" will continue to get closed by the community, and I'm not doing private online counseling, sorry. Feb 28, 2020 at 17:43
  • If you want to share ideas and engage in discussions, start a blog, look for online discussion forums, join or found a local philosophy reading group in your town. There are many options. But SE is not the place for it. Feb 28, 2020 at 17:43
  • You are the only one that I ever found that has any clue what-so-ever about Montague semantics. Almost all linguists almost always reject Monatague semantics as totally unrelated to linguistics. I know that SE is a question/answer format, thus within this constraint the closest that I can get to getting feedback for my ideas is ask for someone to provide a single-counter example refuting my specifically focused assertion. Almost no one has any clue of the underlying subject matter so what I get for feedback is that my question is not clear enough.
    – polcott
    Feb 28, 2020 at 18:00
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    If you trust me on my subject knowledge, you must also confide in my judgement when I'm saying that all the other commenters were completely right. The reason you haven't been getting positive feedback on your ideas is not because everyone else but me is incompetent -- they are not --, but because your questions were unclear, and Stack Exchange was never a place to get feedback to begin with. If you already knew this, then why do you keep posting questions against the site rules anyway, then getting upset about them getting closed? And again, my response to your request is no. Feb 28, 2020 at 20:33
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    At this point I'm only repeating myself, so unless you have something new to bring in, I will regard your question as answered. Feb 28, 2020 at 20:34
  • "Unless my moderator colleagues or other users have serious concerns, you will have to accept the decision made by the community." I have serious concerns. I see lots of questions closed for reasons I think are ignorant or frivolous.
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 2, 2020 at 18:48
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    @Greg Lee OK. If you think this is a general issue on this site and not just related to this particular user's posts, then this is best discussed in a new thread (with an explication of what kinds of questions and objections you have in mind). Mar 4, 2020 at 12:21

While there is definitely an overlap between the kind of semantics questions that philosophers ask and the kind of semantics questions that linguists ask, there are also lots of questions that don't overlap. This site generally favours documentary linguistics, and while many formal semantics questions have been asked here, they are both a minority and may not be well received if they don't seem to have much relevance to documentary linguistics. Similarly, semiotics is not really on-topic here, despite being closely related to semantics.

Semantic paradoxes are probably not something most linguists have thought about as they are semantically empty and perhaps infelicitous. The Philosophy site is definitely the appropriate site for your question on formal semantics eliminating semantic paradoxes.

  • Since [formal-semantics] has nothing to do with documentary semantics it is incorrect in an absolute sense to mark this question down when it is marked [formal-semantics]. People that don't like or don't comprehend [formal-semantics] should refrain from participating in these questions.
    – polcott
    Mar 2, 2020 at 2:07
  • @curiousdanni This may explain why formal semantics questions are realistically seen less well-received on this site, but one shouldn't misunderstand this observation as a justification (not implying that this is what you intended, but saying it for the readers). There is nothing in the on-topic definition of this site that would provide a basis for favoring documentary over theoretical questions, Mar 2, 2020 at 13:52
  • so if formal semantics questions receive negative feedback just because the majority of the active community happens to be less interested in it, and not because the question objectively violates the site's on-topic definitions or is qualitatively flawed, then if anything this is an unfortunate and unfair situation. Though I stick to my judgment that this doesn't apply to the threads presently in question because they did have issues apart from merely being about formal semantics (mostly because weren't really about linguistic semantics at all). Mar 2, 2020 at 13:52
  • @lemontree Right, I think I agree. Formal semantics is definitely still an important part of linguistics and of this site. But it also seems to have been taken out of its linguistic context and used for other philosophical topics. Or it could be the other way round, I don't know how it developed in history. Ultimately it is the community that decides the site, and the on-topic page may lag behind what the community thinks belongs. Maybe some paradox questions could fit well here. Antagonising the community isn't the way to find out though.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 2, 2020 at 13:58
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    It's all a bit odd really; if someone tells you your question doesn't really fit one site but it will fit another, why fight back so much? Many people here are also members of Philosophy, so you'd be getting the same answers anyway!
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 2, 2020 at 14:00
  • "This site generally favours documentary linguistics, and while many formal semantics questions have been asked here, they are both a minority and may not be well received " If they are tagged [formal-semantics] and [montague-grammar] people without knowledge or interest should stay away.
    – polcott
    Mar 7, 2020 at 0:39

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