[PLing] Talk on Plurality by Yasutada Sudo on Monday

Eva Rosina eva.rosina at univie.ac.at
Mon May 13 18:14:08 CEST 2019

Dear all, 

we'd like to invite you all for a talk on the semantics of pluralities next Monday (20th of May) that will be hosted by our project group. 

We are happy to invite Yasutada Sudo (University College London). The title of his talk is "Plurality inferences as quantity implicatures". (see below for abstract)

We'll start at 4pm. The talk is going to take place in the linguistics department, Sensengasse 3a, in Seminarraum 2 on the first floor. 

We hope to see you there!

Nina Haslinger, Magdalena Roszkowski, Viola Schmitt, Eva Rosina, Valerie Wurm 

"Plurality inferences as quantity implicatures"

Plural nouns typically give rise to 'plurality inferences', e.g. "Andrew wrote papers" implies that Andrew wrote multiple papers. But plurality inferences are not always present, e.g. "Andrew did not write papers". There are three types of approaches in the literature: (i) the scalar implicature approach (Spector 2007, Zweig 2009, Ivlieva 2013, Mayr 2015), (ii) the ambiguity approach (Farkas & de Swart 2010, Grimm 2013, Martí 2018), and (iii) the antipresupposition approach (Sauerland 2003, Sauerland et al. 2005). I propose a new scalar implicature account. The scalar implicature account assumes that the plural is semantically number-neutral, and the plurality inference arises as a scalar implicature in competition with the singular. However, the scalar implicature computation is not straightforward, given that pairs like "Andrew wrote papers" and "Andrew wrote a paper" would be truth-conditionally identical. Different versions of the scalar implicature account make use of different truth-conditional asymmetries, e.g. non-global levels of meaning, strengthened meaning, etc. I propose instead that the plurality inference can be derived as a global-level implicature based on non-truth-conditional aspect of the meaning. Specifically, the singular and plural sentences differ in anaphoric possibilities: the plural sentence introduces a discourse referent that ranges over singular or plural entities, while the singular sentence introduces a discourse referent that only ranges over singular entities. Based on this asymmetry, a quantity implicature is derived that the discourse referent is meant to only range over plural entities. I will formalize this idea in update semantics, and demonstrate that it makes correct predictions about negative sentences and quantified sentences.

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