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Semantics and Philosophy in Europe (SPE) 9, Padua, September 4-6, 2017

Posted On: September 03, 2017

This year's Semantics and Philosophy in Europe colloquium focuses on ontology.

 It consists in two special sessions:

Special session 1: Applied Ontology and Natural Language

Special Session 2: Ontology and Generative Syntax



Ontology in the past was considered mainly a pursuit of philosophers, asking questions about being in most general terms. While some philosophers  made appeal to natural language in order to argue for an ontological  category or notion, others have rejected such an appeal arguing that  the ontology  reflected in language diverges significantly from what there really is, from any philosophically accepted ontology. Whatever one's view may be of what a  philosopher should pursue, it has become clear, especially  with the development of natural language semantics, that the ontology  of natural language is an important object of study in itself, as the subject matter of Natural Language Ontology. In addition, ontology is now also being studied with respect to other areas of cognition, as Applied Ontology.

Session 1: Applied Ontology and Natural Language

Differently from pure metaphysics, applied ontology, as conceived  today, can't ignore the role of language and cognition. Indeed, as  long as its goal is to make explicit (by means of computer-readable  conceptual models) people's assumptions about reality, applied  ontology is an intrisically interdisciplinary area of research,  which involves philosophy, linguistics and cognitive science, as  well as computer science.
      We welcome therefore talks concerning the ontological grounds of  cognition and natural language semantics; the impact of linguistic  analysis on conceptual modeling; the role of lexical resources and  NLP for ontology engineering; and the role of formal ontology for  natural language understanding, image understanding, and the  development of
lexical resources and NLP tools.

Session 2: Ontology and Generative Syntax

Not only semantics bears on the ontology of natural language. There also more direct connections to syntax (within the generative tradition). Various categories and elements that syntacticians have posited appear to reflect ontological notions, such as existence, ontological dependence, parthood, causation (or more generally grounding), plurality and unity, as well as ontological categories (events, facts, tropes, qualities etc). Moreover, within generative linguistics the question arises whether and in what way language bears a relation to objects. As has often been pointed out, a great range of objects can be the semantic values of 'referential' NPs in natural language that most philosophers and even nonphilosophers, upon reflection, may be unwilling to accept. But does this mean referential NPs in natural language could only be investigated with respect to a lexical-conceptual structure deployed on an occasion of reference and thus with respect to another level of syntax, as Chomsky has argued, or can one make sense in another way of a rich ontology of what we appear to conceive of as objects of reference, at least when using natural language?'