The scope of indefinites

Natural Language Semantics 2 (2):83-135 (1993)
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This paper claims that indefinite descriptions, singular and plural, have different scope properties than genuine quantifiers. This claim is based on their distinct behavior in island constructions: while indefinites in islands can have intermediate (and maximal) scope readings, quantifiers cannot. Further, the simplest in situ interpretation strategy for indefinites results in incorrect truth conditions for intermediate (and maximal) scope readings. I introduce a mechanism which “auto-matically” preserves the restriction on free variables corresponding to indefinites, in a way which allows the restriction to be carried up in the course of semantic interpretation and to be used at the level where the variable is quantified. This mechanism is a realization of the “indefinites-as-free-variables” proposal of Lewis, Kamp, and Heim, but emphasizes the role of the restriction. I then show that distributive readings of plural indefinites also display island-escaping behavior and argue for an independent, island-insensitive distribution mechanism



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Citations of this work

Restrictions on Quantifier Domains.Kai von Fintel - 1994 - Dissertation, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Situations in natural language semantics.Angelika Kratzer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Specifying Desires.Delia Graff Fara - 2012 - Noûs 47 (2):250-272.
Choice functions and the scopal semantics of indefinites.Yoad Winter - 1997 - Linguistics and Philosophy 20 (4):399-467.

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References found in this work

Quantifiers and propositional attitudes.Willard van Orman Quine - 1955 - Journal of Philosophy 53 (5):177-187.
Dynamic predicate logic.Jeroen Groenendijk & Martin Stokhof - 1991 - Linguistics and Philosophy 14 (1):39-100.
A Theory of Truth and Semantic Representation.Hans Kamp - 1981 - In P. Portner & B. H. Partee (eds.), Formal Semantics - the Essential Readings. Blackwell. pp. 189--222.

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