AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

Shifting sets, hidden atoms : the semantics of distributivity, plurality and animacy

by H. de Vries

Institution: Universiteit Utrecht
Year: 2015
Keywords: semantic number; plurality; distributivity; set theory; NP semantics; agreement; animacy
Record ID: 1256924
Full text PDF: http://dspace.library.uu.nl:8080/handle/1874/312186


This dissertation studies the relation between morphosyntactic and semantic number of both NPs and VPs. Its main claim, based on a range of data involving different kinds of distributive inferences in various languages, is that we need a semantic theory of number that allows both morphosyntactically singular NPs to be associated with semantically plural individuals (sets), and morphosyntactically plural NPs to be associated with semantically singular individuals (atoms). Whether a given NP is associated with an atom or a set is determined by both formal and lexical-conceptual factors: specifically, the need to avoid type-mismatches between dubject and predicate, and the degree of animacy of te NP's referent. This study is of interest to researchers working on the semantics of number and number-related phenomena (in particular distributivity), as well as the influence of animacy on grammar. More generally, it is relevant to anyone interested in the relation between conceptual and formal semantics, and the way that lexical properties of words may influence their behaviour at the compositional level.