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Restrictions on quantifier domains

Kai-Uwe Von Fintel, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation investigates the ways in which natural language restricts the domains of quantifiers. Adverbs of quantification are analyzed as quantifying over situations (instead of being unselective quantifiers). The domain of quantifiers is pragmatically constrained: apparent processes of "semantic partition" are treated as pragmatic epiphenomena. The introductory Chapter 1 sketches some of the background of work on natural language quantification and begins the analysis of adverbial quantification over situations. Chapter 2 develops the central picture of "semantic partition" as a side-effect of pragmatic processes of anaphora resolution. I argue that the apparent effects of topic/focus articulation and presuppositional information on the interpretation of quantifiers are not the result of a direct and local mechanism of sentence grammar. Instead, I develop an analysis where the link is established via the anaphoric dependence of quantifier domains on the discourse context. Chapter 3 discusses the analysis of conditional clauses as quantifier restrictors, concentrating on the question whether conditional clauses restrict quantifiers directly (like common noun phrases restrict determiner-quantifiers) or indirectly (like topic/focus restrict quantifiers). A treatment is explored which has if-clauses constrain the value of the hidden domain variable of the restricted quantifier. Chapter 4, on unless-clauses, and Chapter 5, on only if- and even if-clauses, present some issues in the compositional analysis of complex conditional clauses. These chapters significantly expand the data coverage of the theory of A-quantification. Building on previous work of mine on exceptives, I analyze unless-clauses as exceptive operators on A-quantifiers. The analysis of only if-clauses, treated as conditional clauses that combine if with the focus adverb only, unearthes some interesting new properties. Chapter 6, finally, examines the phenomenon of donkey-anaphora in the light of the results of the previous chapters. I show that a solution to the proportion problem may become possible once we combine the situation-semantic approach to adverbial quantification with the pragmatic theory developed in Chapter 2 and further elaborated in the analysis of donkey anaphora in complex conditionals.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Von Fintel, Kai-Uwe, "Restrictions on quantifier domains" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9434544.