Several natural languages contain a grammatical distinction between singular and plural expressions. The distinction also concerns quantification. Alongside singular quantifiers (‘something’, ‘everything’), we can find plural quantifiers (‘some things’, ‘all things’). Plural logic is a formal system that regiments plural quantification as a sui generis form of quantification, distinct from singular quantification. When treated as sui generis, plural quantification and plural logic have been thought to be philosophically significant and have found a number of applications especially in philosophy of mathematics and metaphysics. For the most part, these applications can be traced back to two of the virtues that plural quantification is alleged to have, i.e. ontological innocence and expressive power. On the one hand, it is assumed that plural quantifiers range in a special plural way over the entities in the range of the singular quantifiers and not over special plural entities (e.g. sets, collections, or any kind of set-like entities). Thus they do not incur ontological commitments exceeding those of the singular quantifiers. On the other hand, as shown by Boolos, plural quantification can interpret monadic second-order logic. As a result, plural quantification has been thought to provide more expressive power than singular quantification as captured by first-order logic. While the growing philosophical literature focuses primarily on the logical and foundational features of plural quantification, research in natural language semantics targets the meaning-theoretic and compositional features of plurals, often from an algebraic perspective. These two strands of research appear largely unreconciled.
Classic papers are Boolos 1984 and Boolos 1985. Yi 1999, Oliver & Smiley 2001, and Rayo 2002 argue forcefully for the significance of plural quantification. The question of logicality is addressed in Linnebo 2003. Full treatments of plural logic are given in Yi 2005 and Yi 2006, McKay 2006, and Oliver & Smiley 2013. Influential contributions in linguistics include Link 1983 and Link 1998, Schein 1993, Schwarzschild 1996, and Landman 2000.
|Introductions||Rayo 2007 and Linnebo 2009 provide overviews of the philosophical literature. For a linguistically oriented introduction, see Schein 2006.|
- Generalized Quantifiers (313)
- Quantification and Ontology (139)
- Quantifier Restriction (30)
- Unrestricted Quantification (48)
- Substitutional Quantification (46)
- Variables (12)
- Quantifiers, Misc (64)
Using PhilPapers from home?
Create an account to enable off-campus access through your institution's proxy server.
Monitor this page
Be alerted of all new items appearing on this page. Choose how you want to monitor it:
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers