Skip navigation
Hardcover | $50.00 Short | £34.95 | ISBN: 9780262232180 | 309 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 15 illus.| February 2002

Flexibility Principles in Boolean Semantics

The Interpretation 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.

About the Author

Yoad Winter is a lecturer in the Computer Science Department at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.


"In this book, Yoad Winter places his influential work on coordination, choice functions, and plurality in the context of a general theory of semantic composition. This is essential reading for anybody interested in possible universals guiding semantic interpretation."
—Angelika Kratzer, Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
"This book represents one of the most thorough studies carried out within the program of 'flexible types' in semantics. Using some quite general 'type-shifting' operations, Dr. Winter is able not only to account for an impressive array of challenging phenomena but also—even more excitingly—to illuminate a number of intricate interactions among these phenomena. This study shows a rare and refreshing integration of formal rigor, mathematical precision, and rich empirical coverage."
—Pauline Jacobson, Professor, Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University
"This research monograph deals with some of the most exciting and widely discussed problems in present-day linguistic theory: coordination, plurals/collectives, indefinites, and scope. With ample background discussion of alternative proposals, the author presents a highly appealing account, emphasizing the interplay between the phenomena studied. The argument falls squarely within the Montague tradition of compositional semantics, brought to the contemporary research frontier with tools such as generalized quantifer theory, Boolean semantics, and type shifting principles. The book, which should interest any researcher or advanced student in the field, combines formal rigor and readable style with an impressive empirical coverage."
—Dag Westerst
"Well over a century ago, Boole published his findings on what he considered the mathematical form of the laws of thought. Winter's new book is an important contribution within this tradition. It contains a wealth of original and thought-provoking ideas on how quantification, plurality, and coordination work in language, revealing novel aspects of the way in which logic and grammar are intertwined."
—Gennaro Chierchia, Department of Psychology, University of Milan, Bicocca, Italy