Interface transparency and the psychosemantics of most

Jeffrey Lidz, Paul Pietroski, Justin Halberda, Tim Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


This paper proposes an Interface Transparency Thesis concerning how linguistic meanings are related to the cognitive systems that are used to evaluate sentences for truth/falsity: a declarative sentence S is semantically associated with a canonical procedure for determining whether S is true; while this procedure need not be used as a verification strategy, competent speakers are biased towards strategies that directly reflect canonical specifications of truth conditions. Evidence in favor of this hypothesis comes from a psycholinguistic experiment examining adult judgments concerning 'Most of the dots are blue'. This sentence is true if and only if the number of blue dots exceeds the number of nonblue dots. But this leaves unsettled, e.g., how the second cardinality is specified for purposes of understanding and/or verification: via the nonblue things, given a restriction to the dots, as in '{pipe}{x: Dot(x) & ~Blue(x)}{pipe}'; via the blue things, given the same restriction, and subtraction from the number of dots, as in '{pipe}{x: Dot(x)}{pipe} - {pipe}{x: Dot(x) & Blue(x)}{pipe}'; or in some other way. Psycholinguistic evidence and psychophysical modeling support the second hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-256
Number of pages30
JournalNatural Language Semantics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Analog magnitude
  • Approximate number system
  • Language development
  • Language processing
  • Mathematics
  • Most
  • Number
  • Quantification
  • Semantics-cognition interface


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