Topic: HUMAN SEMANTICS
A Note on Branching and Wide Scope Readings of Indefinites and Disjunctions
By Philippe Schlenker
Hintikka claimed in the 1970s that indefinites and disjunctions give rise to 'branching readings' that can only be handled by a 'game-theoretic' semantics as expressive as a logic with (a limited form of) quantification over Skolem functions. Due to empirical and methodological difficulties, the issue was left unresolved in the linguistic literature. Independently, however, it was discovered in the 1980s that, contrary to other quantifiers, indefinites may scope out of syntactic islands. We claim [here] that branching readings and the island-escaping behavior of indefinites are two sides of the same coin: when the latter problem is considered in full generality, a mechanism of 'functional quantification' (Winter 2004) must be postulated which is strictly more expressive than Hintikka's, and which predicts that his branching readings are indeed real, although his own solution was insufficiently general. Furthermore, we suggest that, as Hintikka had seen, disjunctions share the behavior of indefinites, both with respect to island-escaping behavior and (probably) branching readings. The functional analysis can thus naturally be extended to them.
Source: Institut Jean-Nicod.
To appear in Journal of Semantics.