The Role of Linguistic Interpretation in Human Failures of Reasoning

Salvador Mascarenhas

  • Area: LaLo
  • Level: I
  • Week: 2
  • Time: 17:00 – 18:30
  • Room: D1.03


Research in linguistic semantics and in the psychology of reasoning overlaps significantly. Both fields study the nature of mental representations of sentences, as well as the ways in which sentences are related to form entailment patterns. Linguistic semantics has produced sophisticated models of sentence interpretation, while the psychology of reasoning has catalogued and analyzed many of the ways in which human inference making diverges from what is logically sanctioned. But the two fields have progressed in parallel, with little interaction. Consequently, some if not many of the fallacies studied in psychology can in principle have been misdiagnosed as failures of reasoning, when in fact they are the result of sound reasoning acting on non-obvious but legitimate interpretations of the premises. This course explores the gap between semantics and reasoning, contrasting competing accounts in the realms of reasoning with disjunctions, conditionals, and probabilities.


Lecture 1 handout

Lectures 2 and 3 handout (updated: simplified formal definitions of ETR operations now have informal glosses in English)

Lecture 4 handout

Additional References