Interpreting Plural Predication: Homogeneity and Non-Maximality
Manuel Križ, Benjamin Spector
May 2017

[Full paper at LingBuzz]

Plural definite descriptions across many languages display two well- known properties. First, they can give rise to so-called non-maximal readings, in the sense that they ‘allow for exceptions’ ('Mary read the books on the reading lis't, in some contexts, can be judged true even if Mary didn’t read all the books on the reading list). Second, while they tend to have a quasi-universal quantificational force in affirmative sentences (‘quasi-universal’ rather than simply ‘universal’ due to the possibility of exceptions we have just mentioned), they tend to be interpreted existentially in the scope of negation (a property often referred to as homogeneity, cf. Löbner 2000). Building on previous works (in particular Krifka 1996 and Malamud 2012), we offer a theory in which sentences containing plural definite expressions trigger a family of possible interpretations, and where general principles of language use account for their interpretation in various contexts and syntactic environments. Our theory solves a number of problems that these previous works encounter, and has broader empirical coverage in that it offers a precise analysis for sentences that display complex interactions between plural definites, quantifiers and bound variables, as well as for cases involving non-distributive predicates. The resulting proposal is briefly compared with an alternative proposal by Križ (2016), which has similar coverage but is based on a very different architecture and sometimes makes subtly different predictions.