Meaningful Games: Exploring Language with Game Theory

Meaningful Games: Exploring Language with Game Theory

by Robin Clark

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Overview

An engaging introduction to the use of game theory to study lingistic meaning.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262016179
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 11/18/2011
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 376
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Robin Clark is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

I The Social Side of Meaning

1 Platonic Heaven 3

The Puzzle of Reference 3

Use, Mention, and Truth 4

The Language of Thought 7

Concepts, Mentalese, and the Informational Universe 10

Language and the World 12

Platonic Heaven in a Box 13

Inferences and Mentalese 16

Further Reading 18

2 My Fall from Platonic Heaven 21

Phrase Structure Grammar 21

Grammar and Corapositionality 23

Thinking and Computing 25

The Heaven in Your Head 28

Brains in SUVs 30

Symbols and Proofs 31

Into the Chinese Room 36

The Social Nature of Intention 38

The Excesses of Youth 39

Further Reading 41

3 Meaning and the Social Contract 43

Choice and Meaning 43

Internal Predicates and External Behavior 44

Public Knowledge 46

The Economics of Meaning 50

Physical Computation and Social Computation 53

The Sociolinguistics of Meaning 55

Further Reading 58

II Games and Truth

4 Primer on Games 63

The Cake Game 69

Sequential Games and Backward Induction 75

The Holmes-Moriarty Game 80

"Ideal Free" Ducks and Mixed Strategy Nash Equilibria 85

Mixed Strategy Nash Equilibria and Language Variation 88

Coordination Games 89

The Prisoner's Dilemma 93

Cooperation: The Stag Hunt 98

Evolutionary Games 106

Case Marking Systems 112

Further Reading 122

5 Game Logic for Natural Language 125

The Tale of Abelard and Eloi'se 128

Syntax 129

Games and Models 137

Atomic Sentences 137

Negation 140

Logical Connectives 142

The Aristotelian Square of Opposition 150

Prospects 172

Ambiguity 172

Monotonicity 173

Compositionality 174

Limitations 176

Further Reading 177

III Games and The World

6 Common Knowledge 181

Coordinated Attack 182

Definite Descriptions and the Mutual Knowledge Paradox 183

Common Knowledge and Bounded Rationality 191

Miscommunication 199

Presuppositions and Accommodation 204

Reconciling the Assumptions 212

Further Reading 212

7 Lexical Games 215

Games for Finding Words 215

Orderly Communication and Utility 221

Playing the Odds 226

Clues from the Context 229

Back to Descriptions and Common Knowledge 232

Equilibrium Selection and Implicature 234

Down the Garden Path 237

Further Reading 242

8 Two Examples: Pronouns and Politeness 245

Discourse Pronouns 245

Politeness, Power, and Implicature 263

On Game-Theoretic Analysis 279

Further Reading 280

9 The Social Ecology of Meaning 283

Games and Prototypes 285

Metrics, Central Tendencies, and Focal Points 289

Semantic Landscapes and Meaning Niches 301

Semantic Hierarchies and Defaults 309

Homophones and Polysemy 314

Into the Artificial World 321

Further Reading 327

Notes 329

References 333

Index 345

What People are Saying About This

Johan van Benthem

Language is the glue of human interaction. This book presents language as a fairground of many interlocking games, all defined precisely, that make sense of what we say and mean. Doing so transforms linguistics as we know it.

Ariel Rubinstein

The lack of common language between linguists and game theorists has made applying game theory thinking to pragmatics quite frustrating. Here is a linguist who has built a bridge between the two fields. A beautifully written book, a treasure of ideas for further research.

Endorsement

The lack of common language between linguists and game theorists has made applying game theory thinking to pragmatics quite frustrating. Here is a linguist who has built a bridge between the two fields. A beautifully written book, a treasure of ideas for further research.

Ariel Rubinstein, Professor of Economics, Tel Aviv University and New York University

From the Publisher

"Language is the glue of human interaction. This book presents language as a fairground of many interlocking games, all defined precisely, that make sense of what we say and mean. Doing so transforms linguistics as we know it." — Johan van Benthem, University Professor of Pure and Applied Logic, University of Amsterdam, and Henry Waldgrave Stuart Professor of Philosophy,Stanford University

"The lack of common language between linguists and game theorists has made applying game theory thinking to pragmatics quite frustrating. Here is a linguist who has built a bridge between the two fields. A beautifully written book,a treasure of ideas for further research." — Ariel Rubinstein,Professor of Economics, Tel Aviv University and New York University

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