Free choiceness and non-individuation

Linguistics and Philosophy 28 (1):1 - 71 (2005)
Abstract
. Fresh evidence from Free Choice Items (FCIs) in French question the current perception of the class. The role of some standard distinctions found in the literature is weakened or put in a new perspective. The distinction between universal and existential is no longer an intrinsic property of FCIs. Similarly, the opposition between variation-based vs intension-based analyses is relativized. We show that the regime of free choiceness can be characterized by an abstract constraint, that we call Non-Individuation (NI), and which can be satisfied in different ways that match current distinctions. NI says that the information conveyed by a sentence containing a FCI should not be reducible to a referential situation, that is a situation in which particular individuals satisfy the sentence in the current world. The widely used resource of modal variation becomes a particular scenario of free-choiceness, not its essence. In fact, we show that under certain conditions, FCIs can occur in episodic, non-modal sentences, a fact that NI can accommodate. We also discuss more fine-grained aspects of the semantics of FCIs, such as their emotional colour. (. . .) the tripod fell spontaneously, because, though it stood on its feet so as to serve for a seat, it did not fall so as to serve for a seat. Aristotle, Physics II,6.
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