, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 1-55
Date: 16 Oct 2011

How indefinites choose their scope

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Abstract

The paper proposes a novel solution to the problem of scope posed by natural language indefinites that captures both the difference in scopal freedom between indefinites and bona fide quantifiers and the syntactic sensitivity that the scope of indefinites does nevertheless exhibit. Following the main insight of choice functional approaches, we connect the special scopal properties of indefinites to the fact that their semantics can be stated in terms of choosing a suitable witness. This is in contrast to bona fide quantifiers, the semantics of which crucially involves relations between sets of entities. We provide empirical arguments that this insight should not be captured by adding choice/Skolem functions to classical first-order logic, but in a semantics that follows Independence-Friendly Logic, in which scopal relations involving existentials are part of the recursive definition of truth and satisfaction. These scopal relations are resolved automatically as part of the interpretation of existentials. Additional support for this approach is provided by dependent indefinites, a cross-linguistically common class of special indefinites that can be straightforwardly analyzed in our semantic framework.