Journal of Semantics 18 (3):183-209 (2001)

The distribution of indefinite singular generics is much more restricted than that of bare plural generics. The former, unlike the latter, seem to require that the property predicated of their subject be, in some sense, ‘definitional’. Moreover, the two constructions exhibit different scopal behaviour, and differ in their felicity in conjunctions, questions, and expressions describing the speaker's confidence. I propose that the reason is that the two expressions, in fact, have rather different meanings. Carlson (1995) makes a distinction between inductivist and rules‐and‐regulations theories of generics. Instead, I draw a distinction between inductivist and rules‐and‐regulations readings of generics. On one reading, a generic expresses the way things are, and its logical form involves quantification; on the other reading, a generic refers to some rule or regulation (often a definition), and states that it is in effect. While bare plurals are ambiguous between the two readings, indefinite singulars can only refer to a rule or a regulation. This difference between the two constructions follows from the fact that bare plurals, but not (nonspecific) indefinite singulars, are acceptable topics. The topic of bare plural generics, then, is the bare plural itself. It is mapped onto the restrictor of the generic quantifier, hence an inductivist reading is available. In contrast, this option is not open to indefinite singular generics. Thus, an inductivist reading is ruled out, and the only possible topic is a rule or regulation. The various differences between the two types of generic are then shown to follow
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/jos/18.3.183
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,464
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Logic and Conversation.H. Paul Grice - 1975 - In Maite Ezcurdia & Robert J. Stainton (eds.), The Semantics-Pragmatics Boundary in Philosophy. Broadview Press. pp. 47.
Logic and Conversation.H. P. Grice - 1975 - In Donald Davidson & Gilbert Harman (eds.), The Logic of Grammar. Encino, CA: pp. 64-75.
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.
Genericity: An Introduction.Manfred Krifka, Francis Jeffry Pelletier, Gregory Carlson, Alice ter Meulen, Gennaro Chierchia & Godehard Link - 1995 - In Greg N. Carlson & Francis Jeffry Pelletier (eds.), The Generic Book. University of Chicago Press. pp. 1--124.
The Generic Book.Greg N. Carlson & Francis Jeffry Pelletier (eds.) - 1995 - University of Chicago Press.

View all 13 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Linguistic Interventions and Transformative Communicative Disruption.Rachel Katharine Sterken - 2020 - In Herman Cappelen, David Plunkett & Alexis Burgess (eds.), Conceptual Engineering and Conceptual Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 417-434.
The Essence of Essentialism.George E. Newman & Joshua Knobe - 2019 - Mind and Language 34 (5):585-605.

View all 29 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Vague Singulars, Semantic Indecision, and the Metaphysics of Persons.Donald P. Smith - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (3):569-585.
Generics and Atemporal When.Greg N. Carlson - 1979 - Linguistics and Philosophy 3 (1):49 - 98.
Varieties of Indefinite Extensibility.Gabriel Uzquiano - 2015 - Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 56 (1):147-166.
The Degrees Below a 1-Generic Degree $.Christine Ann Haught - 1986 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 51 (3):770 - 777.
A Unified Analysis of the English Bare Plural.Greg N. Carlson - 1977 - Linguistics and Philosophy 1 (3):413 - 456.
Almost Weakly 2-Generic Sets.Stephen A. Fenner - 1994 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 59 (3):868-887.
Indifferent Sets for Genericity.Adam R. Day - 2013 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 78 (1):113-138.
Recursively Enumerable Generic Sets.Wolfgang Maass - 1982 - Journal of Symbolic Logic 47 (4):809-823.


Added to PP index

Total views
77 ( #152,051 of 2,520,772 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
8 ( #88,593 of 2,520,772 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes