, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 109-158

Weak vs. strong readings of donkey sentences and monotonicity inference in a dynamic setting

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Abstract

In this paper, I show that the availability of what some authors have called the weak reading and the strong reading of donkey sentences with relative clauses is systematically related to monotonicity properties of the determiner. The correlation is different from what has been observed in the literature in that it concerns not only right monotonicity, but also left monotonicity (persistence/antipersistence). I claim that the reading selected by a donkey sentence with a double monotone determiner is in fact the one that validates inference based on the left monotonicity of the determiner. This accounts for the lack of strong reading in donkey sentences with ↑ MON → determiners, which have been neglected in the literature. I consider the relevance of other natural forms of inference as well, but also suggest how monotonicity inference might play a central role in the actual process of interpretation. The formal theory is couched in dynamic predicate logic with generalized quantifiers.

I would like to thank the following people for their comments and/or judgments: Alessandro Zucchi, Stanley Peters, Charles Lee, Jane Aronson, Johan van Benthem, Peter Sells, Ivan Sag, Will Leben, Gillian Ramchand, Chris Piñón, Bill Poser, Dorit Ben-Shalom, Eric Jackson, David Beaver, Mary Dalrymple, Ray Flournoy, Mats Rooth, and Lynn Cherny, as well as the audiences at Stanford University and at UCLA.