Abstract

The topic of this talk is formalization: the assignment of formal language arguments to natural language arguments for the sake of evaluating the latter’s validity. It has been recognized in the literature that formalization is far from a trivial process. One must discern the logical from the nonlogical in the sentence, a process that requires theorizing that goes beyond the mere understanding of the sentence formalized (Brun 2014). Moreover, according to some, formalization is a form of explication, and it “involves creative and normative aspects of constructing logical forms” (ibid). Yet formalization also includes descriptive aspects even if the extent to which empirical linguistics should be incorporated in the process of formalization is unclear.

In previous work, I proposed a model-theoretic framework of “semantic constraints”, where there is no strict distinction between logical and nonlogical vocabulary. The form of sentences in a formal language is determined rather by a set of constraints on models. In the present work, I show how this framework can also be used to account for both descriptive and normative aspects of formalization.