where ‘aa’ is a plural term, and ‘F’ a plural predicate. Following George Boolos (1984) and others, many philosophers and logicians also think that plural expressions should be analysed as not introducing any new ontological commitments to some sort of ‘plural entities’, but rather as involving a new form of reference to objects to which we are already committed (for an overview and further details, see Linnebo 2004). For instance, the plural term ‘aa’ refers to Alice, Bob and Charlie simultaneously, (...) and the plural predicate ‘F’ is true of some things just in case these things cooperate. A natural question that arises is whether the step from the singular to the plural can be iterated. Are there terms that stand to ordinary plural terms the way ordinary plural terms stand to singular terms? Let’s call such terms superplural. A superplural term would thus, loosely speaking, refer to several ‘pluralities’ at once, much as an ordinary plural term refers to several objects at once.1 Further, let’s call a predicate superplural if it can be predicated of superplural terms. It is reasonably straightforward to devise a formal logic of superplural terms, superplural predicates, and even superplural quantifiers (see Rayo 2006). But does this formal logic reflect any features of natural languages? In particular, does ordinary English contain superplural terms and predicates? The purpose of this article is to address these questions. We examine some earlier arguments for the existence of superplural expressions in English and find them to be either.. (shrink)
In linguistics, the dominant approach to the semantics of plurals appeals to mereology. However, this approach has received strong criticisms from philosophical logicians who subscribe to an alternative framework based on plural logic. In the first part of the article, we offer a precise characterization of the mereological approach and the semantic background in which the debate can be meaningfully reconstructed. In the second part, we deal with the criticisms and assess their logical, linguistic, and philosophical significance. We identify four (...) main objections and show how each can be addressed. Finally, we compare the strengths and shortcomings of the mereological approach and plural logic. Our conclusion is that the former remains a viable and well-motivated framework for the analysis of plurals. (shrink)
A dilemma put forward by Schein (1993) and Rayo (2002) suggests that, in order to characterize the semantics of plurals, we should not use predicate logic, but non-singular logic, a formal language whose terms may refer to several things at once. We show that a similar dilemma applies to mass nouns. If we use predicate logic and sets, we arrive at a Russellian paradox when characterizing the semantics of mass nouns. Likewise, a semantics of mass nouns based upon predicate logic (...) and mereological sums is too weak, since it cannot characterize the “intermediary” construals that sentences containing mass nouns may receive. We then develop an account where mass nouns are treated as non-singular terms, which may refer to several things at once. This semantics is faithful to the intuition that, if there are eight pieces of silverware on a table, the speaker refers to eight things at once when he says: “The silverware that is on the table comes from Italy”. We show that this account provides a satisfactory semantics for a wide range of sentences, including cases often seen as difficult, like “The gold on the table weighs seven ounces” (Bunt 1985) and “All phosphorus is either red or black” (Roeper 1983). (shrink)
Sentences that exhibit sensitivity to order (e.g. 'John and Mary arrived at school in that order' and 'Mary and John arrived at school in that order') present a challenge for the standard formulation of plural logic. In response, some authors have advocated new versions of plural logic based on fine-grained notions of plural reference, such as serial reference (Hewitt 2012) and articulated reference (Ben-Yami 2013). The aim of this article is to show that sensitivity to order should be accounted for (...) without altering the standard formulation of plural logic. In particular, sensitivity to order does not call for a fine-grained notion of plural reference. We point out that the phenomenon in question is quite broad and that current proposals are not equipped to deal with the full range of cases in which order plays a role. Then we develop an alternative and unified account, which locates the phenomenon not in the way in which plural terms can refer, but in the meaning of special expressions such as 'in that order' and 'respectively'. (shrink)
A dilemma put forward by Schein (1993) and Rayo (2002) suggests that, in order to characterize the semantics of plurals, we should not use predicate logic, but plural logic, a formal language whose terms may refer to several things at once. We show that a similar dilemma applies to mass nouns. If we use predicate logic and sets when characterizing their semantics, we arrive at a Russellian paradox. And if we use predicate logic and mereoogical ums, the semantics turns out (...) to be too weak. We then develop an account where mass nouns are treated as non-singular terms. This semantics is faithful to the intuition that, if there are eight pieces of silverware on a table, the speaker refers to eight things at once when he says: "The silverware that is on the table comes from Italy." We show that this account provides a satisfactory semantics for a wide range of sentences. (shrink)
Abstract: Friends of plural logic—like Oliver & Smiley (2001), Rayo (2002), Yi (2005), and McKay (2006)—have argued that a semantics of plurals based on mereological sums would be too weak, and they have adduced several examples in favor of their claim. However, they have not considered various possible counter-arguments. So how convincing are their own arguments? We show that several of them are easily answered, while some others are more problematic. Overall, the case against mereological singularism—the idea that mereological sums (...) can serve as the semantic values of plurals—turns out to be much less strong than what it is usually presented to be. (shrink)
What semantics should we attribute to mass expressions like "wisdom" and "love", which are derived from gradable expressions? We first examine how these expressions are used, then how they are interpreted in their various uses. We then propose a model to account for these data, in which derived mass nouns denote instances of properties.
What semantics should we attribute to nouns like "wisdom" and "generosity", which are derived from gradable adjectives? We show that, from a morphosyntactic standpoint, these nouns are mass nouns. This leads us to consider and answer the following questions. How are these nouns interpreted in their various uses? What formal representations may one associate with their interpretations? How do these depend on the semantics of the adjective? And where lies the semantic unity of nouns like wisdom and generosity with the (...) more familiar concrete mass nouns, like wine and furniture? (shrink)
In this paper, we investigate how certain types of predicates should be connected with certain types of degree scales, and how this can affect the events they describe. The distribution and interpretation of various degree adverbials will serve us as a guideline in this perspective. They suggest that two main types of degree scales should be distinguished: (i) quantity scales, which are characterized by the semantic equivalence of Yannig ate the cake partially and Yannig ate part of the cake; quantity (...) scales only appear with verbs possessing an incremental theme (cf. Dowty 1991); (ii) intensity scales, which are characterized by degree modifiers (e.g., extremely, perfectly) receiving an intensive interpretation; intensity scales typically occur with verbs morphologically related to an adjective (to dry). More generally, we capitalize on a typology of degree structures to explain how degrees play a central role with respect to event structure. (shrink)
In ‘Essential stuff' (2008) and ‘Stuff' (2009), Kristie Miller argues that two generally accepted theses, often formulated as follows, are incompatible: - (Temporal) mereological essentialism for stuff (or matter), the thesis that any portion of stuff has the same parts at every time it exists. - Stuff composition, the thesis that for any two portions of stuff, there exists a portion of stuff that is their mereological sum (or fusion). She does this by considering competing hypotheses about stuff, trying to (...) prove inconsistency in all cases and with all corresponding understandings of mereological essentialism and stuff composition. I explain why, from an endurantist standpoint, her argument does not go through. (shrink)
In this article, I show that the semantics one adopts for mass terms constrains the metaphysical claims one can make about mixtures. I first expose why mixtures challenge a singularist approach based on mereological sums. After discussing an alternative, non-singularist approach, I take chemistry into account and explain how it changes our perspective on these issues.
Do we interpret in the same manner the expressions 'deux pommes' and 'deux pommes et demie'? Studying their English equivalents 'two apples' and 'two and a half apples', Liebesman (2015) has recently proposed that the interpretation of both expressions involves a form of measure, distinct from simple counting. I first present Liebesman’s arguments concerning English. Then I analyze the case of French. I defend the following theses: the interpretation of 'deux pommes' does use ordinary counting with natural numbers, while the (...) interpretation of 'deux pommes et demie' involves a form of ellipsis and, in some cases, a reinterpretation of the noun 'pomme'. (shrink)
In English, some common nouns, like 'dog', can combine with determiners like 'a' and 'many', but not with 'much', while other nouns, like 'water', can be used together with 'much', but not with 'a' and 'many'. These common nouns have been respectively called count nouns (CNs) and mass nouns (MNs). How do children learn to use CNs and MNs in the appropriate contexts? Gaining a better understanding of this is the goal of this paper. To do so, it is important (...) to first get clear on the nature of the distinction between CNs and MNs. Is it a grammatical distinction? Does the distinction apply to nouns, to their senses, or only to their occurrences within noun phrases (NPs)? Showing that the count-mass distinction really is grammatical and applies to nouns is the matter of my first part. Then the question occurs as to whether the distinction corresponds to a systematic difference in the sense of count and mass expressions. If it does, children's acquisition of the distinction may simply follow from their ability to learn the senses of these expressions and determiners. In a second part, I thus discuss various semantic characterizations that have been proposed, and make explicit the exceptions from which they suffer. Now, understanding the sense of an expression is interpreting it correctly as it occurs in an utterance. Formal characterizations of our interpretations help to clarify what is involved in learning and understanding these expressions. In my third part, I examine several formal characterizations with the purpose to specify what would be an adequate representation of the interpretations of mass and count nominal expressions. The understanding gained in these first three parts is used to identify what abilities are exercised by children when they acquire the count-mass distinction. The picture that emerges differs from earlier views of the acquisition in several respects. I thus describe these views and highlight the differences between them and my own proposal. In a final, fifth part, I critically examine the experimental evidence that proponents of some of the accounts of the acquisition of the count-mass distinction have cited in their favor. (shrink)
Our aim in this paper is to clarify the distinctions and the relationships among several phenomena, each of which has certain characteristics of what is generally called “deference”. We distinguish linguistic deference, which concerns the use of language and the meaning of the words we use, from epistemic deference, which concerns our reasons and evidence for making the claims we make. In our in-depth study of linguistic deference, we distinguish two subcategories: default deference, and deliberate deference. We also discuss the (...) phenomenon of im-perfect mastery, often associated with deference, and which we show to be independent both of linguistic deference and of epistemic deference. If our analysis is correct, then some recent debates on deference can be shown to result from a failure to appreciate all the distinctions that we draw here. (shrink)
Research on mass nouns has focused on concrete terms. So, are there semantic properties shared by all mass terms? We first consider concrete nouns like milk and furniture. Contra Cheng (1973), we show that they can be held to refer distributively (i.e. to apply to any part of what they apply to) only if this property is understood with a new part-relation, that of N-part. In addition, they refer cumulatively: when they apply to each of two things, they also apply (...) to the two things considered together. We then turn to abstract mass terms like beauty and love. We find, surprisingly, that they too refer distributively and cumulatively. (shrink)
A number of natural language constructions seem to provide access to structured pluralities — that is, pluralities of pluralities. A body of semantic work has debated how to model this additional structure and the extent to which it depends on pragmatics. In this article, after controlling for the distinction between ambiguity and underspecification, we present new data showing that structured pluralities are sometimes but not always available, depending on the form of the plural noun phrase used. We show that these (...) results challenge two longstanding theories of plurality. We sketch two different ways to account for these data and describe some of the diverging predictions they make. (shrink)
In many languages, common nouns are divided into two morpho-syntactic subclasses, count nouns and mass nouns. Yet in certain contexts, count nouns can be used as if they were mass nouns. This linguistic phenomenon is called conversion. In this paper, we consider the conversions of count nouns into mass nouns in French. First, we identify a general semantic constraint that must be respected in these conversions, and various cases in which a count noun can be used as a mass noun. (...) Second, we examine the effects that semantic and pragmatic factors play in their interpretation. More precisely, we try to determine whether there are specific conventions for interpreting count -> mass conversions in French. Several arguments are discussed, having to do with considerations of theoretical economy, so-called "ambiguity tests", differences among languages as to what interpretations are available for conversions, and the strong feeling of conventionality of some uses. This leads us to postulate the existence of a number of specific conventions for interpreting conversions in French. (shrink)
In English, some common nouns, like "cat", can be used in the singular and in the plural, while others, like "wate"r, are invariable. Moreover, nouns like "cat" can be employed with numerals like "one" and "two" and determiners like "a", "many" and "few", but neither with "much" nor "little". On the contrary, nouns like "milk" can be used with determiners like "much" and "little", but neither with "a", "one" nor "many". These two types of nouns constitute two morphosyntactic sub-classes of (...) English common nouns; cf. for instance Gillon (1992). They have been respectively called count nouns and mass nouns. In many languages, notably Romance and Germanic languages, one can similarly identify two morphosyntactic subclasses of common nouns, nouns of one class admitting singular and plural number, and nouns of the other being invariable in grammatical number. The question we want to address in this paper is one in lexical semantics: Is there anything characteristic about the meaning of a count noun? (shrink)
Contra Jackendoff, we argue that within the parallel architecture framework, the generality of language does not require a rich conceptual structure. To show this, we put forward a delegation model of specialization. We find Jackendoff's alternative, the subdivision model, insufficiently supported. In particular, the computational consequences of his representational notion of modularity need to be clarified.
L'objet de cet article est d'examiner en quoi la phrase nominale existentielle : (a) "Lecture pendant toute la matinée" (b) "Lecture d'un poème" (c) "Lecture" peut être concernée par la distinction aspectuelle télique / atélique. Nous avons examiné les phrases qui, notamment à cause du type d'expression nominale employé, renvoient à un événement, un processus ou un état. Celles qui renvoient à un événement sont téliques, les autres sont atéliques, comme dans le cas des expressions verbales. Nous avons étudié les (...) énoncés nominaux qui comportent un circonstant (a) pouvant influer sur l'aspect télique ou atélique de l'énoncé et les énoncés qui renferment uniquement un groupe nominal, comme en (b), ou un simple nom comme en (c). Il ressort de cette étude i) que le caractère télique ou atélique d'une phrase nominale existentielle dépend non seulement du type de nom utilisé, mais aussi de facteurs syntaxiques (circonstant, complément, adjectif et déterminant du nom) voire contextuels (l'énoncé précédent); ii) que la phrase nominale existentielle impose certaines contraintes d'emploi, notamment par rapport aux déterminants, ce qui peut freiner l'observation de la télicité pour certains groupes nominaux. (shrink)