Hesperus is Bosphorus

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Wenglish: A Language with No Sentences

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It has been more than a year since I have been working on the idea that truth is in fact a form of reference. I started writing a text last year around this time, intending it to be a journal article, but then it got so long that I am now thinking of turning it into a book. The idea first came up when I was working on one of the chapters of my book on curiosity which just recently came out. I hold that being curious requires one to attempt to refer to something unknown to him/her. This allowed me to deal with the wh-questions easily but I had a serious problem with direct questions, or better yes/no questions. Initially I used Frege’s theory to tackle with it but it was too artificial. I liked the Fregean idea that sentences are in fact referring expressions, but I could not convince myself that true sentences refer to the True (whatever that may be)– and even worse is that false sentences refer to the False. So I started searching for an alternative theory which is what led to this work. I then revised and made substantial additions to my curiosity book, but it was at best scratching the surface. In the past year or so I gave four separate talks on it, originally with the title *TRUTH IS REFERENCE*, in Virginia, Milan, St Andrews, and Bogazici.  The part of the talk that attracted the most amount of attention is where I develop a hypothetical language that I call *Wenglish*. This is a language which is just like English except that it does not have declarative sentences. Well that’s what I say, and though most of my listeners seemed to agree with me someone in the audience in one of my talks objected to it (I think it was in Virginia and it might have been Trenton Merrics, but I have to check this).  Wenglish also does not have a separate truth predicate, but of course it has the notion of *reference*. *Reference* is not a predicate though, because Wenglish does not have any predicates either. Rather it has descriptional functions that do same job.  Anyway I argue that whatever that we can say in English we can say in Wenglish. If this is correct it shows all three things that I wish to show: truth is a form of reference; to say that a sentence is true is to say that it refers; and to say that a sentence is false is to say that it fails to refer. Anyway here is a short passage in Wenglish for you to figure out how it works:

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Written by ilhan inan

March 6, 2012 at 8:57 am