Meaningful Games

by Clark

ISBN: 9780262297868 | Copyright 2011

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In Meaningful Games, Robin Clark explains in an accessible manner the usefulness of game theory in thinking about a wide range of issues in linguistics. Clark argues that we use grammar strategically to signal our intended meanings: our choices as speaker are conditioned by what choices the hearer will make interpreting what we say. Game theory -- according to which the outcome of a decision depends on the choices of others -- provides a formal system that allows us to develop theories about the kind of decision making that is crucial to understanding linguistic behavior.

Clark argues the only way to understand meaning is to grapple with its social nature -- that it is the social that gives content to our mental lives. Game theory gives us a framework for working out these ideas. The resulting theory of use will allow us to account for many aspects of linguistic meaning, and the grammar itself can be simplified. The results are nevertheless precise and subject to empirical testing.

Meaningful Games offers an engaging and accessible introduction to game theory and the study of linguistic meaning. No knowledge of mathematics beyond simple algebra is required; formal definitions appear in special boxes outside the main text. The book includes an extended argument in favor of the social basis of meaning; a brief introduction to game theory, with a focus on coordination games and cooperation; discussions of common knowledge and games of partial information; models of games for pronouns and politeness; and the development of a system of social coordination of reference.

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Cover (pg. Cover)
Contents (pg. vii)
Preface (pg. xi)
Acknowledgments (pg. xvii)
1- Platonic Heaven (pg. 3)
The Puzzle of Reference (pg. 3)
Use, Mention, and Truth (pg. 4)
The Language of Thought (pg. 7)
Concepts, Mentalese, and the Informational Universe (pg. 10)
Language and the World (pg. 12)
Platonic Heaven in a Box (pg. 13)
Inferences and Mentalese (pg. 16)
Further Reading (pg. 18)
2- My Fall from Platonic Heaven (pg. 21)
Phrase Structure Grammar (pg. 21)
Grammar and Compositionality (pg. 23)
Thinking and Computing (pg. 25)
The Heaven in Your Head (pg. 28)
Brains in SUVs (pg. 30)
Symbols and Proofs (pg. 31)
Into the Chinese Room (pg. 36)
The Social Nature of Intention (pg. 38)
The Excesses of Youth (pg. 39)
Further Reading (pg. 41)
3- Meaning and the Social Contract (pg. 43)
Choice and Meaning (pg. 43)
Internal Predicates and External Behavior (pg. 44)
Public Knowledge (pg. 46)
The Economics of Meaning (pg. 50)
Physical Computation and Social Computation (pg. 53)
The Sociolinguistics of Meaning (pg. 55)
Further Reading (pg. 58)
4- A Primer on Games (pg. 63)
The Cake Game (pg. 69)
Sequential Games and Backward Induction (pg. 75)
The Holmes-Moriarty Game (pg. 80)
‘‘Ideal Free’’ Ducks and Mixed Strategy Nash Equilibria (pg. 85)
Mixed Strategy Nash Equilibria and Language Variation (pg. 88)
Coordination Games (pg. 89)
The Prisoner’s Dilemma (pg. 93)
Cooperation: The Stag Hunt (pg. 98)
Case Marking Systems (pg. 112)
Further Reading (pg. 122)
5- A Game Logic for Natural Language (pg. 125)
The Tale of Abe´ lard and Eloı¨se (pg. 128)
Syntax (pg. 129)
Games and Models (pg. 137)
Atomic Sentences (pg. 137)
Negation (pg. 140)
Logical Connectives (pg. 142)
The Aristotelian Square of Opposition (pg. 150)
Prospects (pg. 172)
Ambiguity (pg. 172)
Monotonicity (pg. 173)
Compositionality (pg. 174)
Limitations (pg. 176)
Further Reading (pg. 177)
6- Common Knowledge (pg. 181)
Coordinated Attack (pg. 182)
Definite Descriptions and the Mutual Knowledge Paradox (pg. 183)
Common Knowledge and Bounded Rationality (pg. 191)
Miscommunication (pg. 199)
Presuppositions and Accommodation (pg. 204)
Further Reading (pg. 212)
7- Lexical Games (pg. 215)
Games for Finding Words (pg. 215)
Orderly Communication and Utility (pg. 221)
Playing the Odds (pg. 226)
Clues from the Context (pg. 229)
Back to Descriptions and Common Knowledge (pg. 232)
Equilibrium Selection and Implicature (pg. 234)
Down the Garden Path (pg. 237)
Further Reading (pg. 242)
8- Two Examples: Pronouns and Politeness (pg. 245)
Discourse Pronouns (pg. 245)
Politeness, Power, and Implicature (pg. 263)
On Game-Theoretic Analysis (pg. 279)
Further Reading (pg. 280)
9- The Social Ecology of Meaning (pg. 283)
Games and Prototypes (pg. 285)
Metrics, Central Tendencies, and Focal Points (pg. 289)
Semantic Landscapes and Meaning Niches (pg. 301)
Semantic Hierarchies and Defaults (pg. 309)
Homophones and Polysemy (pg. 314)
Into the Artificial World (pg. 321)
Further Reading (pg. 327)
Notes (pg. 329)
References (pg. 333)
Index (pg. 345)
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