Peter Pagin

Peter Pagin

dates de séjour

01/01/2010 - 30/06/2010






Université de Stockholm, Suède

pays d'origine


projet de recherche

Compositionality, Complexity and Context

In the project I will investigate further the relation between semantic compositionality, computational complexity, and context dependence. Compositionality is the principle that the meaning of a complex expression is a function of the meanings of its parts and its mode of composition. It is known that standard arguments for the claim that natural languages are compositional only support the conclusion that they have a computable semantics, i.e. that the meaning of previously unseen complex expressions of the language can be computed from the meaning of the parts and the mode of composition. It is also known that computability does not entail compositionality.


A further requirement on meaning is that the complexity of the task of computing the meaning of complex expressions is low, or minimal. I have earlier shown that if a semantics is computable, and has a certain restricted form of compositionality, so-called polynomial form, then the complexity is minimal. I have shown this with the use term rewriting systems as the model of complexity. One question for the project is whether the result is preserved if Turing machines are used instead.


A second question is certain kind of constructions, which are known to require so-called type-shifts of expressions, are in conflict with the polynomial character of the semantics.


A third task is to develop, with Kathrin Glüer-Pagin, the so-called switcher semantics that we applied to proper names in modal contexts.


A fourth task is to investigate the extent to which context dependence of different kinds require an increase in computational complexity of semantic interpretation.


He was born in Stockholm 1953 and was educated at Stockholm university. He received his basic degree, fil kand, in philosophy and mathematics in 1981. PhD studies 1982-87 with professor Dag Prawitz as supervisor. Docent degree at Stockholm university 1992. Postdoc research position (forskarassistent) 1987-1991. During the fall semester 1996 fellow at The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in Social Science (SCASSS), Uppsala. Full professor from January 2002. Visiting professor at the University of Barcelona, Feb-July 2008. Fellow at Institut d’Études Avancées, IEA-Paris / Visiting researcher at Institut Jean-Nicod, spring 2010. Visiting professor at EHESS, Paris, June 2010.


Main areas


In the first place, Pagin's area is philosophy of language, and within philosophy of language he has primarily taken an interest in the foundations of semantic theories and semantic concepts. During a couple of years he has worked on the principle of compositionality for natural language. He has tried to develop two thoughts: on the one hand that compositional semantic theories contribute to explain the success of linguistic communication, and on the other hand that precisely this explanatory role is the foundation of semantic concepts like truth and referens.


His interest in the philosophy of language has taken Pagin into areas bordering on other disciplines, like philosophy of mind (sensation terms), logic and formal semantics (compositionality), history of literature (point of view markers) and cognitive psychology and psychiatry (speakers with autism). He has also written about rules and rule-following, vagueness, synonymy, assertion and about modern philosophers like Wittgenstein, Quine, Davidson and Dummett.