Research Article

Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 151-173

First online:

Iterating semantic automata

  • Shane Steinert-ThrelkeldAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Stanford University Email author 
  • , Thomas F. IcardIIIAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Stanford University

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The semantic automata framework, developed originally in the 1980s, provides computational interpretations of generalized quantifiers. While recent experimental results have associated structural features of these automata with neuroanatomical demands in processing sentences with quantifiers, the theoretical framework has remained largely unexplored. In this paper, after presenting some classic results on semantic automata in a modern style, we present the first application of semantic automata to polyadic quantification, exhibiting automata for iterated quantifiers. We also discuss the role of semantic automata in linguistic theory and offer new empirical predictions for sentence processing with embedded quantifiers.


Semantic automata Generalized quantifiers Iteration Processing