, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 149-179

On the proper treatment of opacity in certain verbs

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Abstract

This paper is about the semantic analysis of referentially opaque verbs like seek and owe that give rise to nonspecific readings. It is argued that Montague's categorization (based on earlier work by Quine) of opaque verbs as properties of quantifiers runs into two serious difficulties: the first problem is that it does not work with opaque verbs like resemble that resist any lexical decomposition of the seek ≈ try to find kind; the second one is that it wrongly predicts de dicto (i.e. narrow scope) readings due to quantified noun phrases in the object positions of such verbs. It is shown that both difficulties can be overcome by an analysis of opaque verbs as operating on properties.

This is a strongly modified version of a paper entitled ‘Do We Bear Attitudes towards Quantifiers?’ that I have presented at conferences in Gosen (Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft), Ithaca (SALT I), and Konstanz (Lexikon). I owe a special debt to Hans Kamp and Arnim von Stechow for shaping my views on the subject of this paper during the past ten years or so. Comments from and discussions with the following friends and colleagues have also led to considerable improvements: Heinrich Beck, Steve Berman, David Dowty, Veerle van Geenhoven, Fritz Hamm, Irene Heim, Wolfgang Klein, Angelika Kratzer, Michael Morreau, Barbara Partee, Mats Rooth, Roger Schwarzschild, Wolfgang Sternefeld, Emil Weydert, Henk Zeevat, and three referees.