Readings of Plurals and Common Ground

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11667)


This paper asks two questions: (i) In an ambiguous context, what is the interpretation of a sentence like The men wrote musicals? (ii) How can we succinctly characterize the differences between readings that a sentence has in an ambiguous context, versus readings made available in a specialized context, and those available only because of shared knowledge? While these questions have received much attention, e.g. [1, 9, 10, 11, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26] i.a., the number of readings such a sentence has in an ambiguous context remains controversial, as is the availability of additional readings, and the means by which speakers become attuned to readings in a given context. To answer the first question we conducted an online study where participants evaluated the truth value of sentences designed to test the meaning of those like The men wrote musicals. Results suggest that such sentences get a double cover interpretation (i.e. an interpretation in terms of a relation between sets of individuals, rather than a relation strictly between atomic individuals) in an ambiguous context. We couch these results and the discussion on the availability of other readings in terms of a bipartite Common Ground, where available readings are in the Immediate Common Ground, and other readings can be made available via knowledge in the General Common Ground, thereby answering the second question.


Plurals Salience Common Ground Covers Collectivity Distributivity Cumulativity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Heinrich Heine UniversityDüsseldorfGermany

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