First-order Logic - Semantics


An interpretation of a first-order language assigns a denotation to all non-logical constants in that language. It also determines a domain of discourse that specifies the range of the quantifiers. The result is that each term is assigned an object that it represents, and each sentence is assigned a truth value. In this way, an interpretation provides semantic meaning to the terms and formulas of the language. The study of the interpretations of formal languages is called formal semantics. What follows is a description of the standard or Tarskian semantics for first-order logic. (It is also possible to define game semantics for first-order logic, but aside from requiring the axiom of choice, game semantics agree with Tarskian semantics for first-order logic, so game semantics will not be elaborated herein.)

The domain of discourse D is a nonempty set of "objects" of some kind. Intuitively, a first-order formula is a statement about these objects; for example, states the existence of an object x such that the predicate P is true where referred to it. The domain of discourse is the set of considered objects. For example, one can take to be the set of integer numbers.

The interpretation of a function symbol is a function. For example, if the domain of discourse consists of integers, a function symbol f of arity 2 can be interpreted as the function that gives the sum of its arguments. In other words, the symbol f is associated with the function I(f) which, in this interpretation, is addition.

The interpretation of a constant symbol is a function from the one-element set D0 to D, which can be simply identified with an object in D. For example, an interpretation may assign the value to the constant symbol .

The interpretation of an n-ary predicate symbol is a set of n-tuples of elements of the domain of discourse. This means that, given an interpretation, a predicate symbol, and n elements of the domain of discourse, one can tell whether the predicate is true of those elements according to the given interpretation. For example, an interpretation I(P) of a binary predicate symbol P may be the set of pairs of integers such that the first one is less than the second. According to this interpretation, the predicate P would be true if its first argument is less than the second.

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