Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 211–242 | Cite as

Continuations and the Nature of Quantification

  • Chris Barker


This paper proposes that the meanings of some natural language expressions should be thought of as functions on their own continuations. Continuations are a well-established analytic tool in the theory of programming language semantics; in brief, a continuation is the entire default future of a computation. I show how a continuation-based grammar can unify several aspects of natural language quantification in a new way: merely stating the truth conditions for quantificational expressions in terms of continuations automatically accounts for scope displacement and scope ambiguity. To prove this claim, I exhibit a simple finite context-free grammar with a strictly compositional semantics in which quantificational NPs are interpreted in situ but take semantic scope over larger constituents. There is no Quantifier Raising (nor any use of a level of Logical Form distinct from overt syntax), no Cooper Storage (or similar mechanisms used in many recent HPSG, Categorial, or Type-logical treatments), and no need for type-shifting (as in Hendriks' Flexible Types account). Continuations also provide a natural account of generalized coordination that does not require either type-shifting or type polymorphism. Compositionality issues are discussed in some detail.


Compositional Semantic Natural Account Type Account Type Polymorphism Scope Ambiguity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Barker
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA

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