Research Article

Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 191-241

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Relational domains and the interpretation of reciprocals

  • Sivan SabatoAffiliated withBenin School of Computer Science and Engineering, The Hebrew University Email author 
  • , Yoad WinterAffiliated withDepartment of Modern Languages and Utrecht Institute of Linguistics OTS, Utrecht University Email author 


We argue that a comprehensive theory of reciprocals must rely on a general taxonomy of restrictions on the interpretation of relational expressions. Developing such a taxonomy, we propose a new principle for interpreting reciprocals that relies on the interpretation of the relation in their scope. This principle, the Maximal Interpretation Hypothesis (MIH), analyzes reciprocals as partial polyadic quantifiers. According to the MIH, the partial quantifier denoted by a reciprocal requires the relational expression REL in its scope to denote a maximal relation in REL’s interpretation domain. In this way the MIH avoids a priori assumptions on the available readings of reciprocal expressions, which are necessary in previous accounts. Relying extensively on the work of Dalrymple et al. (Ling Philos 21:159–210, 1998), we show that the MIH also exhibits some observational improvements over Dalrymple et al.’s Strongest Meaning Hypothesis (SMH). In addition to deriving some attested reciprocal interpretations that are not expected by the SMH, the MIH offers a more restrictive account of the way context affects the interpretation of reciprocals through its influence on relational domains. Further, the MIH generates a reciprocal interpretation at the predicate level, which is argued to be advantageous to Dalrymple et al.’s propositional selection of reciprocal meanings. More generally, we argue that by focusing on restrictions on relational domains, the MIH opens the way for a more systematic study of the ways in which lexical meaning, world knowledge and contextual information interact with the interpretation of quantificational expressions.


Reciprocals Relational domains Quantifiers