The Interpretation of Coordination, Plurality, and Scope in Natural Language
An investigation of the logical flexibility principles needed for a formal semantic account of coordination, plurality, and scope in natural language.
Since the early work of Montague, Boolean semantics and its subfield of generalized quantifier theory have become the model-theoretic foundation for the study of meaning in natural languages. This book uses this framework to develop a new semantic theory of central linguistic phenomena involving coordination, plurality, and scope. The proposed theory makes use of the standard Boolean interpretation of conjunction, a choice-function account of indefinites, and a novel semantics of plurals that is not based on the distributive/collective distinction. The key to unifying these mechanisms is a version of Montagovian semantics that is augmented by flexibility principles: semantic operations that have no counterpart in phonology.
This is the first book to cover these areas in a way that is both linguistically comprehensive and formally explicit. On one hand, it addresses questions of primarily linguistic concern: the semantic functions of words like and and or in different languages, the interpretation of indefinites and their scope, and the semantic typology of noun phrases and predicates. On the other hand, it addresses formal questions that are motivated by the treatment of these linguistic problems: the use of Boolean algebras in linguistics, the proper formalization of choice functions within generalized quantifier theory, and the extension of this theory to the domain of plurality. While primarily intended for readers with a background in theoretical linguistics, the book will also be of interest to researchers and advanced students in logic, computational linguistics, philosophy of language, and artificial intelligence.