Speakers, in their everyday conversations, use language to talk about
language. They may wonder about what words mean, to whom a name refers,
whether a sentence is true. They may worry whether they have been clear, or
correctly expressed what they meant to say. That speakers can make such
inquiries implies a degree of access to the complex array of knowledge and
skills underlying our ability to speak, and though this access is
incomplete, we nevertheless can form on this basis beliefs about linguistic
matters of considerable subtlety, about ourselves and others. It is beliefs
of this sort--de lingua beliefs--that Robert Fiengo and Robert May explore
in this book.
Fiengo and May focus on the beliefs speakers have about the semantic values
of linguistic expressions, exploring the genesis of these beliefs and the
explanatory roles they play in how speakers use and understand language.
Fiengo and May examine the resources available to speakers for generating
linguistic beliefs, considering how linguistic theory characterizes the
formal, syntactic identity of the expressions linguistic beliefs are about
and how this affects speakers' beliefs about coreference. Their key insight
is that the content of beliefs about semantic values can be taken as part
of what we say by our utterances. This has direct consequences, examined in
detail by Fiengo and May, for explaining the informativeness of identity
statements and the possibilities for substitution in attributions of
propositional attitudes, cases in which speakers' beliefs about coreference
play a central role.