Polarity in natural language: Predication, quantification and negation in particular and characterizing sentences [Book Review]

Linguistics and Philosophy 23 (3):213-308 (2000)
The present paper is an attempt at the investigation of the nature of polarity contrast in natural languages. Truth conditions for natural language sentences are incomplete unless they include a proper definition of the conditions under which they are false. It is argued that the tertium non datur principle of classical bivalent logical systems is empirically invalid for natural languages: falsity cannot be equated with non-truth. Lacking a direct intuition about the conditions under which a sentence is false, we need an independent foundation of the concept of falsity. The solution I offer is a definition of falsity in terms of the truth of a syntactic negation of the sentence. A definition of syntactic negation is proposed for English (Section 1). The considerations are applied to the analysis of definites in non-generic sentences and the analysis of generic indefinites. These two domains are investigated in breadth and some depth and the analyses compared and connected. During the discussion of non-generic predications with definite arguments and their respective negations (Section 2), a theory of predication is developed, basic to which is the distinction between integrative and summative predication. Summative predication, e.g., distributive plural, leads to contrary, all-or-no-thing, polarity contrasts due to the fundamental Presupposition of Indivisibility. Further-more, levels of predication are distinguished that are built up by various processes of constructing macropredications from lexical predicates. Given this analysis, particular (i.e., non-generic) quantification (Section 3) can be reanalyzed as an integrative, first-order form of predication that fills the truth-value gaps created by summative predication. The account comprises both nominal and adverbial quantification and relates quantification to the simpler types of predication discussed in Section 2.
Keywords Linguistics   Philosophy of Language   Artificial Intelligence   Computational Linguistics   Semantics   Syntax
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DOI 10.1023/A:1005571202592
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Elizabeth Ferch (2013). Scopeless Quantity Words in Shona. Natural Language Semantics 21 (4):373-400.

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