The Ockham Society (Friday - Week 4, MT19)

Ockham Society

Any theory of quantification has to attend to the following question: How does the domain of quantifying expressions gets restricted? While there is an agreement among theorists that it gets restricted by means of context, it remains a matter of dispute how exactly context contributes to this process. In my talk, I will discuss three analyses (syntactic analysis, semantic analysis, pragmatic analysis) of the role of context in domain restriction that have been surveyed by Stanley and Szabo (2000) with a particular focus on the domain restriction of plural and singular definite descriptions. I will assess these analyses based on how well they account for the role that context plays in the interpretation of a Japanese sentence that lacks definite/indefinite determiners and plurality markers. My conclusion will be that each of these analyses fails.

My talk will proceed as follows: Firstly, I will argue that the syntactic analysis struggles with the fact that sentences into which context is supposed to insert an elliptical expression do not meet a necessary condition for being elliptical sentences. Next, it will be shown that the semantic analysis places a too heavy burden on context in its role in domain restriction of a sentence in comparison to sentential expressions. Then, I will argue that the main challenge for the standard pragmatic analysis is to give a coherent explanation of what so-called ‘default’ propositions with minimal domain restriction are supposed to be and that, without this explanation, the distinction between expressed and communicated propositions can be hardly maintained. Lastly, I will present my own version of pragmatic analysis which differs from the standard pragmatic analysis in that it construes the role of context only as supplementary in the sense that it enters the scene only when explicit resources of a sentence for identifying its domain get exhausted.

Ockham Society Convenor: Sean Costello | Ockham Society Webpage