Interpreting plural predication: homogeneity and non-maximality

Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (5):1131-1178 (2021)
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Abstract

Plural definite descriptions across many languages display two well-known properties. First, they can give rise to so-called non-maximal readings, in the sense that they ‘allow for exceptions’. Second, while they tend to have a quasi-universal quantificational force in affirmative sentences, they tend to be interpreted existentially in the scope of negation. Building on previous works, we offer a theory in which sentences containing plural definite expressions trigger a family of possible interpretations, and where general principles of language use account for their interpretation in various contexts and syntactic environments. Our theory solves a number of problems that these previous works encounter, and has broader empirical coverage in that it offers a precise analysis for sentences that display complex interactions between plural definites, quantifiers and bound variables, as well as for cases involving non-distributive predicates. The resulting proposal is briefly compared with an alternative proposal by Križ, which has similar coverage but is based on a very different architecture and sometimes makes subtly different predictions.

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Benjamin Spector
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Citations of this work

Conditional Heresies.Fabrizio Cariani & Simon Goldstein - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2):251-282.
Free choice, simplification, and Innocent Inclusion.Moshe E. Bar-Lev & Danny Fox - 2020 - Natural Language Semantics 28 (3):175-223.
An Implicature account of Homogeneity and Non-maximality.Moshe E. Bar-Lev - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (5):1045-1097.

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Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
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The Logic of Decision.Richard C. Jeffrey - 1965 - New York, NY, USA: University of Chicago Press.

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