Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 1–50 | Cite as

Existentials, predication, and modification

Research Article


This paper offers a new semantic theory of existentials (sentences of the form There be NPpivotXPcoda) in which pivots are (second order) predicates and codas are modifiers. The theory retains the analysis of pivots as denoting generalized quantifiers (Barwise and Cooper 1981; Keenan 1987), but departs from previous analyses in analyzing codas as contextual modifiers on a par with temporal/locative frame adverbials. Existing analyses universally assume that pivots are arguments of some predicate, and that codas are main or secondary predicates. It is shown that these analyses cannot account for the behavior of codas with quantifiers and for the interaction of multiple codas, both of which receive a simple treatment on the proposed theory. The assimilation of codas to frame adverbials explains several semantic properties which have not been analyzed in the semantic literature, and that distinguish existentials from their copular counterparts. Furthermore, it highlights important properties of the semantics of modification and its relation to predication.


Semantics of existential constructions Predication Modification 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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