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Author & Title: Giulio Bendedetti, A Semantics of the Fundamental Structural Elements of Language, Based on Cognitive Functions; Operational Semantics, in Salvati G. and Rabuano V. (eds.) Cognitive Psychology Perspectives, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY, 2010



In this chapter, the author provides a brief introduction to a completely new theory in Semantics, Operational Semantics (OS), which concerns the meanings of the basic linguistic elements that are indispensable for any linguistic expression, that is, mainly the “grammatical” words (conjunctions, prepositions, articles, most pronouns and corresponding adjectives, fundamental verbs like “to be”, “to have” etc., the main adverbs) and, in the large numbers of languages that have a more or less rich morphology, almost all morphemes. OS differs significantly from other existing theories. In fact, in linguistics several of these basic elements are often considered to have a complex meaning and, in some cases, to be polysemous (such as some prepositions/cases and some verbs). Nevertheless, the words that designates them are among the first that children learn, and unique. OS is a systematic theory about the meaning of these linguistic elements, which it considers, in agreement with such facts, as having a simple and (substantially) unique meaning.

    The fundamental presupposition of OS is that the meanings of such linguistic elements are essentially sequences of elemental mental operations, amongst which the ones of attention a play a key role. The author proposes a list of these elemental mental operations and shows how it is possible, by basing ourselves on these, to account for the meanings of the aforesaid linguistic elements. A new theory, which lies between linguistics and cognitive psychology, derives from this. This theory also allows us to define fundamental concepts of linguistics (such as “noun”, “subjects”, “object”, etc.) in a sample and clear way and propose new solutions for some other problems in linguistics and psycholinguistics.

    In the last part of the chapter, the author also mentions a possible short-term practical application of OS, i.e. a device to improve the quality of machine translation, and highlights the limits of OS.



Keywords: Mind, mental operations, consciousness, attention, thought, language, Italian Operational School, operational semantics, linguistics, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, semantics, grammar, philosophy, cognitive psychology, neurobiology


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