Playing with monsters: character operators in natural language



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Tartu Ülikool


In his seminal work on demonstratives, Kaplan (1989) banned monsters from the realm of natural language semantics arguing that the English language does not contain operators that operate on linguistic character and, furthermore, that such operators could not be added to it. The first claim has been disputed since, giving rise to a monster hunt that led to the discovery of alleged monsters in a number of natural languages, and even to monstrous expressions in English. The second claim, however, seems to have been just implicitly answered by some of the responses to the first one. The goal of this brief paper is to offer a counterexample to that second assertion: the thesis that monsters could not be added to English. I claim not only that there are monsters, but that we can introduce monsters into the English language. Therefore, this is an essay about the possibility of implementing character operators into the English language. In order to do so, I first lay out a framework for a monstrous taxonomy. I then point to a very particular monster that terrorises children in Mexico, giving a superficial characterisation of it, and finally replying to some possible objections regarding its status as a real monster. The moral of this paper is that we only need a bit of wicked, child-like imagination in order to bring monsters to life in English.



philosophy of language, philosophy