Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 79–134

On The Interpretation of Wide-scope Indefinites

  • Lisa Matthewson

DOI: 10.1023/A:1008376601708

Cite this article as:
Matthewson, L. Natural Language Semantics (1998) 7: 79. doi:10.1023/A:1008376601708


This paper argues, on the basis of data from St'át'imcets (Lillooet Salish), for a theory of wide-scope indefinites which is similar, though not identical, to that proposed by Kratzer (1998). I show that a subset of S'át'imcets indefinites takes obligatory wide scope with respect to if-clauses, negation, and modals, and is unable to be distributed over by quantificational phrases. These wide-scope effects cannot be accounted for by movement, but require an analysis involving choice functions (Reinhart 1995, 1997). However, Reinhart's particular choice function analysis is unable to account for the St'át'imcets data. A Kratzer-style theory, on the other hand, accounts not only for the wide-scope effects, but also for the emergence of narrower-than-widest interpretations for indefinites which contain bound variables. I depart from Kratzer's analysis in claiming that St'át'imcets choice function indefinites are not 'specific'; the discourse context does not provide a value for the function variable. Therefore, I utilize wide- scope existential closure over choice functions rather than leaving the variables free. However, my analysis provides support for Kratzer's claim that English indefinites are ambiguous between a choice function interpretation and a quantificational interpretation, since St'át'imcets determiners overtly encode the English ambiguity. I conclude by suggesting that the proposed analysis of wide-scope indefinites may be universally valid.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Matthewson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and PhilosophyMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA; E-mail