Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 129–209

Donkey pluralities: plural information states versus non-atomic individuals

Research Article


The paper argues that two distinct and independent notions of plurality are involved in natural language anaphora and quantification: plural reference (the usual non-atomic individuals) and plural discourse reference, i.e., reference to a quantificational dependency between sets of objects (e.g., atomic/non-atomic individuals) that is established and subsequently elaborated upon in discourse. Following van den Berg (PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 1996), plural discourse reference is modeled as plural information states (i.e., as sets of variable assignments) in a new dynamic system couched in classical type logic that extends Compositional DRT (Muskens, Linguistics and Philosophy, 19, 143–186, 1996). Given the underlying type logic, compositionality at sub-clausal level follows automatically and standard techniques from Montague semantics become available. The idea that plural info states are semantically necessary (in addition to non-atomic individuals) is motivated by relative-clause donkey sentences with multiple instances of singular donkey anaphora that have mixed (weak and strong) readings. At the same time, allowing for non-atomic individuals in addition to plural info states enables us to capture the intuitive parallels between singular and plural (donkey) anaphora, while deriving the incompatibility between singular (donkey) anaphora and collective predicates. The system also accounts for empirically unrelated phenomena, e.g., the uniqueness effects associated with singular (donkey) anaphora discussed in Kadmon (Linguistics and Philosophy, 13, 273–324, 1990) and Heim (Linguistics and Philosophy, 13, 131–177, 1990) among others.


Plurals Anaphora Weak and strong donkey readings Uniqueness effects Compositional dynamic semantics Type logic 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA

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