Champollion, Lucas, Dylan Bumford, and Robert Henderson. 2017. Homogeneity in donkey anaphora.

[Full paper on lingbuzz]

Abstract:  Donkey sentences have existential and universal readings, but they are not often perceived as ambiguous. We extend the pragmatic theory of homogeneity in plural definites by Križ (2016) to explain how context disambiguates donkey sentences. We propose that the denotations of such sentences produce truth value gaps — in certain scenarios the sentences are neither true nor false — and demonstrate that Križ’s pragmatic theory fills these gaps to generate the standard judgments of the literature. Building on Muskens’s (1996) Compositional Discourse Representation Theory and on ideas from supervaluation semantics, the semantic analysis defines a general schema for quantification that delivers the required truth value gaps. Given the independently motivated pragmatic account of homogeneity inferences, we argue that donkey anaphora does not require plural information states, contra Brasoveanu 2008, 2010, or error states, contra Champollion 2016. Yet, as in Champollion 2016, the parallel between donkey pronouns and plural definites is still located in the pragmatics rather than in the semantics, which sidesteps problems known to arise for some previous accounts according to which donkey pronouns and plural definites both have plural referents (Krifka 1996, Yoon 1996). Our pragmatic account improves over alternatives like Kanazawa 1994 that predict the readings of donkey sentences based on the monotonicity properties of the embedding quantifier.

Keywords:  donkey sentences, trivalence, weak/strong (existential/universal) ambiguity, extension gaps, pragmatics