Connecting content and logical words

Emmanuel Chemla · Brian Buccola · Isabelle Dautriche

Published in Journal of Semantics

Last updated: February 2019

Full paper: pdf

Experimental materials: Data in csv and R script of analysis

Abstract: Content words (e.g. nouns and adjectives) are generally connected: there are no gaps in their denotations; no noun means ‘table or shoe’ or ‘animal or house’. We explore a formulation of connectedness which is applicable to content and logical words alike, and which compares well with the classic notion of monotonicity for quantifiers. On a first inspection, logical words satisfy this generalized version of the connectedness property at least as well as content words do — that is, both in terms of what may be observed in the lexicons of natural languages (although our investigations remain modest in that respect) and in terms of acquisition biases (with an artificial rule learning experiment). This reduces the putative differences between content and logical words, as well as the associated challenges that these differences would pose, e.g., for learners.

Keywords: universals · content and logical words · quantifiers · connectedness