What is Meaning? Fundamentals of Formal Semantics. Paul
Portner. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. Pp. x + 235. $29.95 paper.
Another textbook on formal semantics? Before you reach for the
Tylenol, relax; this is a textbook with a twist: It is an informal
textbook on formal semantics. Portner's book is actually a very
ambitious endeavor because it sets out to teach the basics of the
scientific study of meaning in an accessible and user-friendly way.
Readers of SSLA who have struggled with formal semantics as
undergraduates, in graduate school, or both will appreciate the challenge.
I believe that Portner is mostly successful in his endeavor. As I will
explain, he is almost too successful; as a result, the apparent raison
d'être of the book is defeated, to an extent. In what
follows, I will qualify this claim.