Schlenker, Philippe: 2012, "Informativity-based Maximality Conditions" [Squib]. To appear in Snippets

Final version [pdf]
Older version [longer][pdf]

bstract:   Von Fintel, Fox and Iatridou 2005/2012 argue that 'the NP' should not be taken to refer to the largest NP-object, as is commonly thought, but rather to the object x such that the proposition 'x satisfies NP' is  maximally informative. In particular, they show that in some cases an informativity-based treatment correctly predicts that 'the NP' should refer to the smallest rather than to the largest NP-satisfying object (= 'reversal'). We argue that their informativity-based treatment should be extended to the maximality conditions which, according to recent dynamic semantics, accompany most generalized quantifiers (e.g. Brasoveanu 2008). Specifically, we replicate the argument from 'reversal' with indefinite antecedents: in the discourse A certain amount of plutonium is sufficient to trigger a nuclear explosion. I will obtain it.,  the pronoun it refers to the smallest rather than to the largest amount of plutonium sufficient to trigger a nuclear explosion. This particular case could be handled in two ways: via dynamic treatments that posit that the antecedent comes with a maximal informativity condition; or via E-type analyses that adopt an informativity-based analysis of definite descriptions and give the pronoun it the semantics of a description. However, the same facts extend to examples with symmetric ('bishop') antecedents that are not easily handled by non-dynamic (E-type) treatments; this suggests that the maximality conditions of quantifiers in dynamic semantics must be given an informativity-based definition.