Complexity of Quantified Reciprocals

  • Jakub SzymanikEmail author
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 96)


This chapter is concerned with the linguistic case study. I investigate the computational complexity of different interpretations of reciprocal expressions, like ‘each other’ in English. I show that Ramsey quantifiers express the semantics of reciprocal sentences with a quantifier in the antecedent. As a result I find a computational dichotomy between different interpretations of reciprocals: some of them are tractable when others are intractable. This dichotomy is consistent with well-known semantic distinctions among different interpretations of ‘each other’. I discuss the impact of this dichotomy on the so-called Strong Meaning Hypothesis proposed as a pragmatic explanation for shifts occurring among different reciprocal readings. I argue that shifts between different interpretations of reciprocal sentences, predicted by the Strong Meaning Hypothesis, can be caused by differences in computational complexity between various readings of reciprocity. I overview psychological evidence supporting this claim and show that the distribution of reciprocal sentences in English corpora is consistent with computational complexity distinctions.


Reciprocal expressions Strong Meaning Hypothesis Polyadic quantifiers Ramsey quantifiers Computational complexity Tractable cognition thesis Cognitive difficulty Power laws 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Logic, Language and ComputationUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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