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The grammar of choice

Paula Menendez-Benito, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation investigates the semantics of universal Free Choice (FC) items i.e., items like FC any or Spanish cualquiera. This study is relevant for the theory of quantification. One of the core questions of this research is: what is the range of quantificational constructions used in natural language? Investigating the behavior of FC items will be instrumental in answering this question. While FC items seem to express quantification, they do not behave like 'textbook' quantifiers: They have a restricted distribution, and they seem to have a special relationship with modality. In Chapter 2, I explore a compositional account in the spirit of Dayal (1998), according to which FC items are modal universal quantifiers, and conclude that this account can only derive the distribution of FC items by making assumptions that are not empirically justified. My analysis of universal FC items is developed in Chapter 3, which constitutes the core of the dissertation. The crucial observation presented in this chapter is that analyzing universal FC items as wide-scope universals does not capture their FC component. In Chapter 3, I present an analysis that captures the FC effect and derives the ungrammaticality of FC items in episodic sentences like *John took any of these cards and necessity sentences like *John must take any of these cards. The key component of the proposal is the idea that all these sentences involve an exclusiveness requirement. Chapter 4 deals with the licensing of FC items in generic sentences like this printer prints any document. I argue that these examples contain a covert possibility modal and thus that they fall under the general explanation given in Chapter 3 for possibility sentences. The discussion in this chapter sheds light on the semantics of generic sentences. Chapter 5 discusses two further environments in which the interaction with genericity will turn out to be relevant: (i) necessity sentences like Any student must work hard and (ii) sentences like John talked to any woman that came up to him. The discussion in this chapter will lead to a better understanding of the interaction of FC items with genericity.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Menendez-Benito, Paula, "The grammar of choice" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193926.