Are natural languages illogical?

Here is an essay on this question by Barbara Partee.


Barbara Partee giving the Whatmough Lecture

“There have been centuries of study of logic and of language. Some philosophers and logicians have argued that natural language is logically deficient, or even that “natural language has no logic.” And before the birth of formal semantics in the late 1960’s, most linguists and philosophers were agreed that there was a considerable mismatch between the syntactic structure of natural language sentences and their “logical form.” This essay briefly sketches the history of arguments about the relation between natural language syntax and logical structure, concentrating on the period from Frege to Montague, roughly 1880 to 1970, illustrating the issues with sentences containing quantifiers.”

Here is a video of Barbara Partee’s 2014 Whatmough Lecture at Harvard University. The History of Formal Semantics: Changing Notions of Semantic Competence.