A unified analysis of the English bare plural

Linguistics and Philosophy 1 (3):413 - 456 (1977)

Abstract

It is argued that the English bare plural (an NP with plural head that lacks a determiner), in spite of its apparently diverse possibilities of interpretation, is optimally represented in the grammar as a unified phenomenon. The chief distinction to be dealt with is that between the generic use of the bare plural (as in Dogs bark) and its existential or indefinite plural use (as in He threw oranges at Alice). The difference between these uses is not to be accounted for by an ambiguity in the NP itself, but rather by explicating how the context of the sentence acts on the bare plural to give rise to this distinction. A brief analysis is sketched in which bare plurals are treated in all instances as proper names of kinds of things. A subsidiary argument is that the null determiner is not to be regarded as the plural of the indefinite article a.

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Gregory Carlson
University of Rochester

References found in this work

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
The Proper Treatment of Quantification in Ordinary English.Richard Montague - 1973 - In Patrick Suppes, Julius Moravcsik & Jaakko Hintikka (eds.), Approaches to Natural Language. Dordrecht. pp. 221--242.
The Proper Treatment of Quantification in Ordinary English.Richard Montague - 1974 - In Richmond H. Thomason (ed.), Formal Philosophy. Yale University Press.
Adverbs of Quantification.David K. Lewis - 1975 - In Edward L. Keenan (ed.), Formal Semantics of Natural Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 3--15.

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Citations of this work

The Radical Account of Bare Plural Generics.Anthony Nguyen - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1303-1331.
Reference to Numbers in Natural Language.Friederike Moltmann - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 162 (3):499 - 536.
Attitudes Towards Objects.Alex Grzankowski - 2016 - Noûs 50 (2):314-328.
Existence Predicates.Friederike Moltmann - 2020 - Synthese 197 (1):311-335.
Simple Generics.David Liebesman - 2011 - Noûs 45 (3):409-442.

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