Dissertation Colloquium Series
Kristen Greer
A General Theory of Quantification
Monday, November 10th, 2014 — 4:10-5:00 PM
Department of Philosophy Library
1231 Social Sciences and Humanities Building
Kristen Greer Linguistics UC DavisKristen Greer is a Candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics at UC Davis. Her research on the semantics, pragmatics, and syntax of such quantifiers as all, most, only, few, many, seldom, often, and a lot has yielded a recently-published article in the journal of Linguistics and Philosophy as well as a dissertation that is ready to defend. She will present an overview of this research in a public talk that is to precede a formal “defense” of the dissertation.

ABSTRACT — Existing work on DP quantifiers handles ambiguous quantifiers with either lexical or structural ambiguity. This strategy is problematic because it sacrifices the key insight of Generalized Quantifier Theory that quantifiers are logical operators and as such should be definable unambiguously. In keeping with this original claim, I propose a theory of the pragmatic, semantic, and syntactic structure of quantifiers that is fully general. To do this, I offer a detailed account of the effects of context on quantifier interpretation and show how the syntactico-semantic structure must be modified to incorporate these effects. The basic proposal is that the compositional structure of quantifiers is itself determined pragmatically, with the restrictor representing a set whose existence is presupposed in the utterance and the scope a set whose existence is asserted. Beyond its ability to generate the interpretations of ambiguous quantifiers, the proposed pragmatically-driven architecture sheds interesting new light on familiar issues in quantification, notably puzzles of quantifier scope. The analysis also leads us to the striking conclusion that quantifiers in natural language are logical operators despite their context dependence.