Richard Montague

Richard Montague ( born September 20, 1930 in Stockton, California, † March 7, 1971 in Los Angeles, California ) was an American mathematician, logician, philosopher and linguist and classic formal semantics of natural languages ​​.


In 1957 he was at the University of California, Berkeley under Alfred Tarski to the Ph.D. doctorate. The title of his dissertation is Contributions to the Axiomatic Foundations of Set Theory. Throughout his career he taught at the following University of California, Los Angeles. The life and work of the thinker was the inspiration for the book The Semantics of Murder (2008) by Aifric Campbell. The book's title alludes to the enlightened never violent death Montagues.


For Montague there is - according to his thesis - no fundamental difference in the semantics of artificial and natural languages. Montague has taken advantage of recent developments in intensional logic to reveal the logical structure of natural languages ​​. The syntax is based on the linguistic surface, there is no transformation as in the Chomsky syntax. Natural language expressions to be transferred by means of translation rules in the language of intensional logic whose interpretation is carried out theoretical model. Every meaningful expression receives an intension assigned that provides a function of possible worlds or situations a reference object as an extension. This can be specified in terms of Frege truth conditions for natural language sentences and valid conclusions can be formulated.

Montague's semantic universal grammar is a critical counterpart to the theory of grammar of Noam Chomsky, in which the semantics was considered independent of the syntax component. Montague's claim, however, was that the meaning of a sentence is directly linked to his sentence structure.

The theory is rather to be regarded as an approach to explain a fixed staked subzone of the semantics of natural language. Montague developed a very strong separation of truth value dependent semantics and linguistic pragmatics. Many phenomena of natural language ( Abtönungspartikel, cross-block anaphora, coherence, etc.) could, and should not be treated within the framework of this theory. Although the position at the beginning of 21 yrs. is barely represented, it provides a formal basis for the correct treatment of intensionality. That a statement such as "John seeks a unicorn " does not include existential statement "There is a unicorn " but means " Hans is looking for something that has the properties of a unicorn ."


  • With Donald Kalish: Logic: Techniques of Formal Reasoning. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich and 1964.
  • Formal philosophy: selected papers of Richard Montague / ed and with an introd. by Richmond H. Thomason. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press. 1974 (1979 printing: ISBN 0-300-01527-5 )