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doi: 10.3765/sp.3.1

Quantifiers in than-clauses∗

Sigrid Beck

University of Tübingen

Decision 2009-07-06 / Revised 2009-07-27 / Accepted 2009-07-27 / Published 2010-

01-25

Abstract

The paper reexamines the interpretations that quantifiers in than-clauses

give rise to. It develops an analysis that combines an interval semantics for

the than-clause with a standard semantics for the comparative operator. In

order to mediate between the two, interpretive mechanisms like maximality

and maximal informativity determine selection of a point from an interval.

The interval semantics allows local interpretation of the quantifier. Selection

predicts which interpretation this leads to. Cases in which the prediction

appears not to be met are explained via recourse to independently attested

external factors (e.g. the interpretive possibilities of indefinites). The goal

of the paper is to achieve coverage of the relevant data while maintaining a

simple semantics for the comparative. A secondary objective is to reexamine,

restructure and extend the set of data considered in connection with the

problem of quantifiers in than-clauses.

∗ Versions of this paper were presented at the workshop on covert variables in Tübingen 2006,

at two Semantic Network meetings (in Barcelona 2006 and Oslo 2007), at the 2009 Topics

in Semantics seminar at MIT, and at the Universität Frankfurt 2009. I would like to thank

the organizers Frank Richter and Uli Sauerland and the audiences at these presentations for

important feedback. Robert van Rooij and Jon Gajewski have exchanged ideas with me. The

B17 project of the SFB 441 has accompanied the work presented here — Remus Gergel, Stefan

Hofstetter, Sveta Krasikova, John Vanderelst — as have Arnim von Stechow and Irene Heim.

Several anonymous reviewers and Danny Fox have given feedback on earlier versions, and

David Beaver and Kai von Fintel have commented on the prefinal version. I am very grateful

to them all.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Non-

Commercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0).

Sigrid Beck

1 Introduction

long time, beginning with von Stechow 1984, via Schwarzschild & Wilkinson

2002, Schwarzschild 2004, and Heim 2006b, to very recent approaches in

Gajewski 2008, van Rooij 2008 and Schwarzschild 2008. It can be illustrated

with the examples below.

(10 ) a. For all x, x is a girl: John ran faster than x.

b. #The degree of speed that John reached exceeds the degree of speed

that every girl reached.

i.e. “John’s speed exceeds the speed of the slowest girl.”

(2) John ran faster than he had to.

(20 ) a. #For all w, w is a permissible world: John ran faster in @ than he

ran in w.

b. The degree of speed that John reached in @ exceeds the degree of

speed that he has in every permissible world w.

i.e. “John’s actual speed exceeds the slowest permissible speed.”

(@ stands for the real world)

Example (1) intuitively only has a reading that appears to give the universal

NP scope over the comparison, namely (10 a): all the girls were slower than

John. The reading in which the universal NP takes narrow scope relative to

the comparison is paraphrased in (10 b). Here we must look at degrees of

speed reached by all girls; depending on the precise semantics of the than-

clause (see below), this could mean the maximal speed that they all reached,

i.e. the speed of the slowest girl. Example (1) has no reading that compares

John’s speed to the speed of the slowest girl. Sentence (2), on the other hand,

only has a reading that gives the modal universal quantifier narrow scope

relative to the comparison, (20 b). That is, we consider the degrees of speed

that John reaches in all worlds compatible with the rules imposed by the

modal base of have to. This will yield the slowest permissible speed, and (2)

intuitively says that John’s actual speed exceeded this minimum requirement.

The sentence is not1 understood to mean that John did something that was

1 Heim (2006b) and Krasikova (2008) include a discussion of when readings like (20 a) are

available. The reading can be made more plausible with a suitable context, depending on the

modal chosen. For the moment I will stick to the simpler picture presented in the text. See

1:2

Quantifiers in than-clauses

against the rules — that is, reading (20 a), in which the modal takes scope over

the comparison, is not available.

We must ask ourselves how a quantifier contained in the than-clause can

have wide scope at all, why it cannot get narrow scope in (1), and why (2) is the

opposite. Since — as we will see in more detail below — these questions look

unanswerable under the standard analysis of comparatives, the researchers

cited above have been led to a revision of the semantic analysis of comparison.

Schwarzschild & Wilkinson (2002) employ an interval semantics for the than-

clause and give the comparative itself an interval semantics. Heim (2006b)

adopts intervals, but ultimately reduces the semantics of the comparison

back to a degree semantics through semantic reconstruction. This allows

her to retain a simple meaning of the comparative operator. A than-clause

internal operator derives the different readings that quantifiers in than-

clauses give rise to. The line of research in Gajewski 2008, van Rooij 2008

and Schwarzschild 2008 in turn adopts the idea of a than-clause internal

operator but not the intervals.

In this paper, I pursue a strategy that can be seen as an attempt to simplify

Schwarzschild & Wilkinson’s proposal. Like them, I derive a meaning for

the than-clause without a than-clause internal operator, and that meaning is

based on an interval semantics. But I combine this with a standard semantics

of the comparative in the spirit of von Stechow 1984. This means that the

end result of interpreting the than-clause must be a degree. Everything will

hinge on selecting the right degree, so that each of the relevant examples

receives the right interpretation.

In Section 2, I present the current state of our knowledge in this domain.

The analysis of than-clauses is presented in Section 3. Section 4 ends the

paper with a summary and some discussion of consequences of the proposed

analysis.

2 State of affairs

pretational possibilities that arise with quantifiers in than-clauses. Then I

sketch Schwarzschild & Wilkinson’s (2002) and Heim’s (2006b) analyses in

Section 2.2, and in Section 2.3 a summary of the proposals in Gajewski 2008,

van Rooij 2008 and Schwarzschild 2008.

Section 3 for more discussion.

1:3

Sigrid Beck

The basis of our present perception of the problem presented by (1) and

(2) is the analysis of the comparative construction, because the data are

understood in terms of whether the quantfier appears to take wide scope

over the comparison according to a classical analysis of the comparative,

or whether it would have to be seen as taking narrow scope relative to the

comparison. My presentation assumes a general theoretical framework like

Heim & Kratzer 1998 and begins with specifically Heim’s (2001) version of

the theory of comparison promoted in von Stechow 1984 (see also Klein 1991

and Beck 2009 for an exposition and Cresswell 1977; Hellan 1981; Hoeksema

1983; Seuren 1978 for theoretical predecessors). This theory is what I will

refer to as a classical analysis of the comparative. For illustration, I discuss

the simple example (3a) below. In (3b) I provide the Logical Form and in (3c)

the truth conditions derived by compositional interpretation of that Logical

Form, plus paraphrase. Interpretation relies on the lexical entries of the

comparative morpheme and gradable adjectives as given in (4).

b. [-er [hd,ti than 2 [Knut is t2 old]]

[hd,ti 2 [Paule is t2 old]]]

c. max(λd. Paule is d-old) > max(λd. Knut is d-old) =

Age(Paule) > Age(Knut)

“The largest degree of age that Paule reaches exceeds the largest

degree of age that Knut reaches.”

“Paule’s age exceeds Knut’s age.”

0

(4) a. -er = λDhd,ti . λDhd,ti . max(D 0 ) > max(D)

b. oldhd,he,tii = [λd. λx. x is d-old]

= [λd. λx. Age(x) ≥ d]

c. Let S be a set ordered by R.

Then maxR (S) = ιs[s ∈ S & ∀s 0 ∈ S[sRs 0 ]]

the maximal degree provided by the than-clause to some matrix clause

degree. The than-clause provides degrees through abstraction over the

degree argument slot of the adjective. Different versions of such a classical

analysis are available (for instance von Stechow’s (1984) own or Kennedy’s

1:4

Quantifiers in than-clauses

parallel fashion in all of them.

I will make one small revision to the above version of the classical analysis:

I will suppose that what is written into the lexical entry of the comparative

morpheme as the maximality operator in (4a) is not actually part of the

meaning of the comparative itself. Rather, it is a general mechanism that

allows us to go from a description of a set to a particular object, for example

also in the case of free relative clauses in (5) (Jacobson 1995); see also Beck

2009. I represent maximality in the Logical Form, as indicated in (40 b). The

meaning of the comparative is then simply (40 a), the ‘larger than’ relation. It

is basically this meaning of the comparative that I will try to defend below.

The resulting interpretation remains of course the same.

b. max(λx. we liked x)

(40 ) a. -er = λdd .λd0d . d0 > d

b. [-er [d than max 2 [Knut is t2 old]]

[d max 2 [Paule is t2 old]]]

c. max(λd. Paule is d-old) > max(λd. Knut is d-old)

Universal NPs are a standard example for an apparent wide scope quantifier

(see e.g. Heim 2006b). The sentence in (6) below only permits the reading in

(60 a), not the one in (60 b). This can be seen from the fact that the sentence

would be judged false in the situation depicted below.

(60 ) a. ∀x[girl(x) → max(λd. John is d-tall) > max(λd. x is d-tall)]

“For every girl x: John’s height exceeds x’s height.”

b. #max(λd. John is d-tall) > max(λd. ∀x[girl(x) → x is d-tall])

“John’s height exceeds the largest degree to which every girl is

tall.”

“John is taller than the shortest girl.”

_ _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ _/

1:5

Sigrid Beck

to take scope over the comparative. The LF given in (600 a) can straightfor-

wardly be interpreted to yield (60 a); analogously for (600 b) and (60 b). Thus,

strangely, the sentence appears to permit with (600 a) only an LF which violates

constraints on Quantifier Raising (QR): QR is normally confined to a simple

finite clause (May 1985 and much subsequent work). The LF in (600 b), which

would be unproblematic syntactically, is not possible.

[d max 2 [John is t2 tall]]]]

b. [[-er [d than max 2 [every girl] [ 1 [t1 is t2 tall]]]

[d max 2 [John is t2 tall]]]

The example with the differential in (7) shows the same behaviour (it uses a

version of the comparative that accomodates a difference degree, (7c)).

b. ∀x[girl(x) → max(λd. John is d-tall) ≥ max(λd. x is d-tall) + 200 ]

= For every girl x: John’s height exceeds x’s height by 200 .

c. -erdiff = λd. λd0 . λd00 . d00 ≥ d + d0

The problem posed by (5) and (7) is exacerbated in (8), as Schwarzschild &

Wilkinson (2002) observe. We have once more a universal quantifier, but

this time it is one that is taken to be immobile at LF: the intensional verb

predict. Still, the interpretation that is intuitively available looks to be one

in which the universal outscopes the comparison, (80 a). The interpretation

in which comparison takes scope over predict, (80 b), is not possible. This is

problematic because the LF we would expect (8) to have is (10), and (10) is

straightforwardly interpreted to yield (80 b).

(9) My prediction: John will be between 1.70 m and 1.80 m.

Claim made by (8): John is taller than 1.80 m.

(80 ) a. ∀w[wR@ →

max(λd. John is d-tall in @) > max(λd. John is d-tall in w)]

“For every world compatible with my predictions: John’s actual

height exceeds John’s height in that world.”

b. # max(λd. John is d-tall in @)

> max(λd. ∀w[wR@ → John is d-tall in w])

1:6

Quantifiers in than-clauses

in all worlds compatible with my predictions.”

“John’s actual height exceeds the shortest prediction, 1.70 m.”

(where R is the relevant accessibility relation, compare e.g. Kratzer

1991)

(10) [[-er [hd,ti than max 2 [ I had predicted that [ John be t2 tall]]]

[hd,ti max 2 [ John is t2 tall]]]

This is the interpretive behaviour of many quantified NPs, plural NPs like

the girls, quantificational adverbs, verbs of propositional attitude and some

modals (e.g. should, ought to, might). See Schwarzschild & Wilkinson 2002

and Heim 2006b for a more thorough empirical discussion.

that does not is the modal have to, along with some others (be required, be

necessary, need). This is illustrated below.

(12) Mary wants to play basketball. The school rules require all players to

be at least 1.70 m. Claim made by (11): Mary is taller than 1.70 m.

(110 ) a. ?#∀w[wR@ →

max(λd. Mary is d-tall in @) > max(λd. Mary is d-tall in w)]

= For every world compatible with the school rules:

Mary’s actual height exceeds Mary’s height in that world;

i.e. Mary is too tall.

b. max(λd. Mary is d-tall in @)

> max(λd. ∀w[wR@ → Mary is d-tall in w])

= Mary’s actual height exceeds the degree of tallness which she

has in all worlds compatible with the school rules;

i.e. Mary’s actual height exceeds the required minimum, 1.70 m.

relative to the comparison. Example (11) does not favour an apparent wide

scope interpretation. Krasikova (2008) argues though that some examples

with have to–type modals may have both readings, depending on context. (13)

is one of her examples favouring a reading analogous to (110 a), an apparent

1:7

Sigrid Beck

(13) He was coming through later than he had to if he were going to retain

the overall lead. (from Google, cited from Krasikova 2008)

= He was coming through too late.

(15) a. #∃w[wR@ &

max(λd. Mary is d-tall in @) > max(λd .Mary is d-tall in w)]

= It would be allowed for Mary to be shorter than she actually is.

b. max(λd. Mary is d-tall in @)

> max(λd. ∃w[wR@ & Mary is d-tall in w])

= Mary’s actual height exceeds the largest degree of tallness that

she reaches in some permissible world; i.e. Mary’s actual height

exceeds the permitted maximum.

(17) a. #There is someone that Mary is taller than.

b. Mary’s height exceeds the largest degree of tallness reached by

one of the others.

(18) Mary is taller than John or Fred are.

(19) a. ?#For either John or Fred: Mary is taller than that person.

b. Mary’s height exceeds the maximum height reached by John or

Fred.

This is the interpretive behaviour of some modals (e.g. need, have to, be

allowed, be required), some indefinites (especially NPIs) and disjunction (com-

pare once more Heim 2006b). It is also the behaviour of negation and negative

quantifiers, with the added observation that the apparent narrow scope read-

ing is one which often gives rise to undefinedness, hence unacceptability (von

Stechow 1984; Rullmann 1995). (That this is not invariably the case is shown

by (22), illustrating that we are concerned with a constraint on meaning rather

than form.)

1:8

Quantifiers in than-clauses

The maximum height reached by no girl is undefined, hence:

unacceptability of this reading.

b. #There is no girl who John is taller than.

(22) I haven’t been to the hairdresser longer than I haven’t been to the

dentist.

Here is how the empirical picture presents itself from the point of view of

a classical analysis of comparatives. It appears that there are two different

scope readings possible for quantifiers embedded inside the than-clause,

wide or narrow scope relative to the comparison. But there is usually no

ambiguity. Each individual quantifier favours at most one reading (negation

frequently permits none). Apparent narrow scope readings are straightfor-

wardly captured by the classical analysis. It is unclear how apparent wide

scope readings are to be derived at all. As Schwarzschild & Wilkinson argue,

they are beyond the reach of an LF analysis. It is also unclear what creates

the pattern in the readings that we have observed.

Before we examine modern approaches to this problem, a final comment

on the data. I have presented them the way they are presented in the literature

on the subject, as if they were all impeccable and their interpretations clear.

But I would like to use this opportunity to point out that I find some of

them fairly difficult and perhaps not even entirely acceptable. This concerns

example (6), for which I would much prefer a version with a definite plural (the

girls instead of every girl). The NP the girls is, if anything, more problematic

under the classical analysis, as Schwarzschild & Wilkinson (2002) point out

(having less of an inclination towards wide scope); but see Section 4 for a

comment on how this issue may be relevant for the analysis developed in

this paper.

b. John is taller than the girls are.

∀x[x ∈ the girls → John is taller than x]

Another instance are examples with intensional verbs like predict or expect;

when a genuine range is predicted or expected, intuitions regarding when

sentences with differentials like (800 ) would be true vs. false are not very firm.

This seems to me an area in which a proper empirical study might be helpful.

The issue is taken up in Section 3.4.

1:9

Sigrid Beck

(800 ) a. John is two inches taller than I had predicted (that he would be).

b. John arrived at most 10 minutes later than I had expected.

Since it is very hard to see how the data can be derived under the classical

theory, the two theories summarized below (Schwarzschild & Wilkinson 2002

and Heim 2006b) both change the semantics of the comparative construction

in ways that reanalyse scope. The quantificational element inside the than-

clause can take scope there even under the apparent wide scope reading.

The two theories differ with respect to the semantics they attribute to the

comparison itself. They also differ in their empirical coverage.

complete revision of the semantics of comparison. The feature of the classical

analysis that they perceive as the crux of our problem is that the than-clause

provides a degree via abstraction over degrees. According to them, the

quantifier data show that the than-clause instead must provide us with an

interval on the degree scale — in (23) below an interval into which the height

of everyone other than Caroline falls.

‘Everyone else is shorter than Caroline.’

_ _ _ _ _ _ _• _ _ _ _•_ _ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _• _ _ _/

x1 x2 x3 C

(24) than everyone else is = λD. everyone else’s height falls within D

(where D is of type hd, ti)2

To simplify, I will suppose that it is somehow ensured that we pick the right

matrix clause interval (Caroline’s height in (23), Joe’s height in the example

2 I present the discussion here in terms of the classical theory’s ontology, where degrees (type

d, elements of Dd ) are points on the degree scale and what I call an interval is a set of points,

type hd, ti.

1:10

Quantifiers in than-clauses

below).

ple.

Matrix + Comp: max D 0 : [Joe’s height − D 0 ] 6= 0

the largest interval some distance below Joe’s height

Whole clause: the largest interval some distance below Joe’s height

is an interval into which exactly 5 people’s height falls.

Note that the quantifier is not given wide scope over the comparison at all

under this analysis. The interval idea allows us to interpret it within the

than-clause. While solving the puzzle of apparent wide scope operators, the

analysis makes wrong predictions for apparent narrow scope quantifiers (cf.

example (27)). The available reading cannot be accounted for ((28a) is the

semantics predicted by the classical analysis, corresponding to the intuitively

available reading; (28b) is the semantics that the Schwarzschild & Wilkinson

analysis predicts).

(28) a. John’s height > max(λd. ∃x[x 6= John & x is d-tall])

b. #The largest interval some distance below John’s height is an

interval into which someone else’s height falls = Someone is

shorter than John.

The breakthrough achieved by this analysis is that we can assign to the than-

clause a useful semantics while interpreting the quantifier inside that clause.

For this reason, the interval idea is to my mind a very important innovation.

The analysis still has a crucial problem in that it does not extend to the

apparent narrow scope quantifiers. That is, it fails in precisely those cases

that were unproblematic for the classical analysis. I will also mention that

the semantics of comparison becomes rather complex under this analysis,

since the comparative itself compares intervals. This is not in line with the

plot I outlined above of maintaining as the semantics of the comparative

operator the plain ‘larger than’-relation.

1:11

Sigrid Beck

Heim (2006b) adopts the interval analysis, but combines it with a scope

mechanism that derives ultimately a wide and a narrow scope reading of

a quantifier relative to a comparison. Her analysis extends proposals by

Larson (1988). Larson’s own analysis is only applicable to than-clauses with

an adjective phrase gap denoting a property of individuals — a limitation

remedied by Heim. Let us consider her analysis of apparent wide scope of

quantifier data, like (29), first. Heim’s LF for the sentence is given in (30). She

employs an operator Pi (Point to Interval, credited to Schwarzschild (2004)),

whose semantics is specified in (31). Compositional interpretation (once more

somewhat simplified for the matrix clause, for convenience) is given in (32).

(30) [ IP [ CP than [1 [every girl [2 [ AP [Pi t1 ] [3 [ AP t2 is t3 tall]]]]]]]

[ IP 4 [[-er t4 ] [5 [John is t5 tall]]]]

(32) a. main clause:

[[[4 [[-er t4 ] [5 [John is t5 tall]]]]] = λd. John is taller than d

b. than-clause:

[than [1 [every girl [2 [ AP [Pi t1 ] [3 [ AP t2 is t3 tall]]]]]]] =

D 0 /1

λD 0 . [every girl [2 [ AP [Pi t1 ] [3 [ AP t2 is t3 tall]]]]]]]g =

0 x/2

0 g D /1

λD . ∀x[girl(x) → [ AP [Pi t1 ] [3 [ AP t2 is t3 tall]]] ]=

x/2

λD . ∀x[girl(x) → [λD.λP . max(P ) ∈ D](D )([3 [t2 is t3 tall]]g )] =

0 0

d)] =

λD 0 . ∀x[girl(x) → max(λd. Height(x) ≥ d) ∈ D 0 ] =

λD 0 . ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]

intervals into which the height of every girl falls

c. main clause + than-clause:

(29) =

[λD 0 . ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]](λd. John is taller than d) =

for every girl x: John is taller than x

1:12

Quantifiers in than-clauses

The than-clause provides intervals into which the height of every girl falls.

The whole sentence says that the degrees exceeded by John’s height is such

an interval. Semantic reconstruction (i.e. lambda conversion) simplifies the

whole to the claim intuitively made, that every girl is shorter than John. The

analysis assumes that the denotation domain Dd is a set of degree ‘points’,

and that intervals are of type Dhd,ti .

The analysis is a way of interpreting the quantifier inside the than-clause,

and deriving the apparent wide scope reading over the comparison through

giving the quantifier scope over the shift from degrees to intervals (the Pi

operator). It is applicable to other kinds of quantificational elements like

intensional verbs in the same way. Our example with predict is analysed

below; the intuitively plausible reading can now be derived straightforwardly

from the LF in (34).

b. ∀w[wR@ → max(λd. John is d-tall in @) >

max(λd. John is d-tall in w)]

= For every world compatible with my predictions:

John’s actual height exceeds John’s height in that world.

(34) [ IP [ CP than [1 [I had predicted [ CP [Pi t1 ] [2 [ AP John t2 tall]]]]]]]

[ IP 3 [John is taller than t3 ]]]

(35) a. main clause:

[3 [John is taller than t3 ]] = (λd. John is taller than d in @)

b. than-clause:

[than [1 [I had predicted [ CP [Pi t1 ] [2 [ AP John t2 tall]]]]]]] =

0

[λD 0 . ∀w[wR@ → [ CP [Pi t1 ] [2 [ AP John t2 tall]]]g[D /1] ] =

[λD 0 . ∀w[wR@ → max(λd. Height(John)(w) ≥ d) ∈ D 0 ]] =

[λD 0 . ∀w[wR@ → Height(John)(w) ∈ D 0 ]]

intervals into which John’s height falls in all my predictions

c. main clause + than-clause:

(34) =

[λD 0 . ∀w[wR@ → Height(John)(w) ∈ D 0 ]]

(λd. J is taller than d in @)

= for every w compatible with my predictions:

John’s actual height exceeds John’s height in w.

is sketched below for the AP tall. As long as a than-clause quantifier takes

1:13

Sigrid Beck

scope over the Pi operator, the resulting meaning of the whole sentence will

be one that lets the quantifier take scope over the comparison, even though

it is interpreted syntactically below the comparative operator and inside the

than-clause.

[λd. Height(x) ≥ d] =⇒ [λD. Height(x) ∈ D]

is able to derive apparently narrow scope readings of an operator relative to

the comparison as well. The sentence in (37a) is associated with the LF in (38).

Note that here, the shifter takes scope over the operator have to. This makes

have to combine with the degree semantics in the original, desired way,

giving us the minimum compliance height (just like it did before, without the

intervals). The shift is essentially harmless.

b. max(λd. Mary is d-tall in @)

> max(λd. ∀w[wR@ → Mary is d-tall in w])

Mary’s actual height exceeds the degree of tallness which she has

in all worlds compatible with the school rules;

i.e. Mary’s actual height exceeds the required minimum, 1.70 m.

(38) [ IP [ CP than [1 [[[Pi t1 ] [2 [has-to [Mary t2 tall]]]]]]]

[ IP 3 [Mary is taller than t3 ]]]

(39) a. main clause:

[3 [Mary is taller than t3 ]]] = (λd. Mary is taller than d in @)

b. than-clause:

[than [1 [[[Pi t1 ] [2 [has-to [Mary t2 tall]]]]]] =

0

λD 0 . [[Pi t1 ] [2 [has-to [Mary t2 tall]]]]]]g[D /1] =

λD 0 . max(λd. has-to [Mary t2 tall]]]]]]g[d/2] ) ∈ D 0

λD 0 . max(λd. ∀w[wR@ → Mary is d-tall in w]) ∈ D 0

intervals into which the required minimum falls

c. main clause + than-clause:

(38) =

[λD 0 . max(λd. ∀w[wR@ → Mary is d-tall in w]) ∈ D 0 ]

(λd. Mary is taller than d in @)

= Mary is taller than the required minimum.

1:14

Quantifiers in than-clauses

crucial ingredient to this analysis is that the Pi operator is a scope bearing

element, able to take local or non-local scope. Pi-phrase scope interaction is

summarized below:

=⇒ apparent wide scope reading of quantifier over comparison

Pi takes wide scope relative to quantifier

=⇒ apparent narrow scope reading of quantifier relative to comparison

us to assign a denotation to the than-clause with the quantifier. The shift

amounts to a form of type raising. Through semantic reconstruction, the

matrix clause is interpreted in the scope of a than-clause operator when that

operator has scope over the shifter. In contrast to Schwarzschild & Wilkinson,

comparison is ultimately between degrees, not intervals.

Heim’s analysis is able to derive both wide and narrow scope readings of

operators in than-clauses. It does so without violating syntactic constraints.

There is, however, an unresolved question: when do we get which reading?

How could one constrain Pi-phrase/operator interaction in the desired way?

One place where this problem surfaces is once more negation, where we

expect an LF that would generate an acceptable wide scope of negation

reading. That is, the LF in (41b) should be grammatical and hence (41a)

should be acceptable on the reading derived from this LF in (42).

b. [ IP [ CP than [1 [no girl [2 [[Pi t1 ] [3 [ t2 is t3 tall]]]]]]]

[ IP 4 [[-er t4 ] [5 [John is t5 tall]]]]

(42) a. main clause:

[4 [[-er t4 ] [5 [John is t5 tall]]] = λd. John is taller than d

b. than-clause:

[than [1 [no girl [2 [[Pi t1 ] [3 [ t2 is t3 tall]]]]]]] =

λD 0 . for no girl x : max(λd. x is d-tall) ∈ D 0

intervals into which the height of no girl falls

c. main clause + than-clause:

(41b) =

[λD 0 . for no girl x : max(λd. x is d-tall) ∈ D 0 ](λd. J is taller than d)

= for no girl x: John is taller than x

1:15

Sigrid Beck

and semantic reconstruction, allows Heim to derive both types of readings

(apparent narrow and apparent wide scope), and to reduce the comparison

ultimately back to a comparison between degrees. Thus her empirical cover-

age is greater and the semantics of comparison simpler than Schwarzschild &

Wilkinson’s analysis. The problem that this analysis faces is overgeneration.

We do not have an obvious way of predicting when we get which reading.

The fact that in general, only one scope possibility is available makes one

doubt that this is really a case of systematic scope ambiguity.

There is a group of new proposals — Gajewski 2008, van Rooij 2008 and

Schwarzschild 2008 — for how to deal with quantifiers in than-clauses whose

approach seems to be inspired by Heim’s (2006b) analysis. I present below a

simplified version of this family of approaches that is not entirely faithful

to any of them. I call this the NOT-theory. It can be summarized in relation

to the previous subsection as ‘keep the than-clause internal operator, but

not the intervals’. It adopts the idea that there is an operator — like Heim’s

Pi — that can take wide or narrow scope relative to a than-clause quantifier,

dictating what kind of reading the comparative sentence receives. It does not

adopt an interval analysis, and thus the operator is not Pi and the semantics

of the comparative is not the classical one. Instead, the operator is negation

and the proposed semantics is basically Seuren’s (1978).

provides the set of degrees of tallness that Bill does not reach. It does so

by virtue of containing a negation, as illustrated in the LF in (44). This

meaning could be combined intersectively with the main clause and the

degree existentially bound, as represented in (45).

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & ¬ Height(B) ≥ d]

c. There is a degree of tallness that John reaches and Bill doesn’t

reach.

1:16

Quantifiers in than-clauses

b. λd[¬ Height(B) ≥ d] = λd[Height(B) < d]

(45) [∃ [λd [John is d-tall] [than λd [NOT Bill is d-tall]]]

The authors mentioned above note that this semantics gives us an easy

way to derive the intuitively correct interpretation for apparent wide scope

quantifiers. This is illustrated below for the universal NP. In (46) I show that

the desired meaning is easily described in this analysis and in (47) I provide

the LF for the than-clause that derives it. (48) illustrates that some, another

apparent wide scope quantifier, is equally unproblematic.

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) < d]]

c. every girl is shorter than John.

(47) a. than every girl is

b. than λd [every girl [1 [NOT [t1 is d tall]]]]

c. than λd.∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) < d]]

_ _ _ _• _ _ _ _ _ _ _•_ _ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _ _ •

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/

g1 g2 g3 g4

...

(48) a. John is taller than some girl is.

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & ∃x[girl(x) & Height(x) < d]]

c. there is a girl who is shorter than John.

quantifier no. Proceeding in the now familiar way, we derive (49b). Rephrasing

this in terms of (49c) makes it clear that the resulting semantics is very weak.

Whenever the girls have any measurable height at all — that is, whenever the

than-clause can be appropriately used — there will be a height degree that

John reaches and that all the girls reach as well. The smallest degree on the

scale will be such a degree. The NOT-theory proposes that the sentence is

unacceptable because it is necessarily uninformative.

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & for no girl x : Height(x) < d]

c. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & for every girl x : Height(x) ≥ d]

uninformative!

(The lowest degree on the height scale makes this true.)

1:17

Sigrid Beck

The NOT-theory needs another important ingredient: Just like the Pi-operator

above, other than-clause internal operators have to take flexible scope relative

to NOT in order to create the different readings we observe. This is illustrated

below with the familiar have to example, and with allowed.

b. #∃d[Height(M)(@) ≥ d & ∀w[wR@ → NOT Height(M)(w) ≥ d]]

Mary should have been shorter than she is.

c. ∃d[Height(M)(@) ≥ d & NOT∀w[wR@ → Height(M)(w) ≥ d]]

Mary is taller than the minimally required height.

(51) a. John is taller than he is allowed to be.

b. #∃d[Height(J)(@) ≥ d & ∃w[wR@ & NOT Height(J)(w) ≥ d]]

∃d[Height(J)(@) ≥ d & ∃w[wR@ & Height(J)(w) < d]]

John would have been allowed to be shorter than he is.

c. ∃d[Height(J)(@) ≥ d & NOT∃w[wR@ & Height(J)(w) ≥ d]]

John is taller than the tallest permissible height.

(52) a. #than λd [allowed [λw [NOT [John is d tall in w]]]]

b. than λd [NOT [allowed [λw [John is d tall in w]]]]

Just like the Pi-theory, then, the NOT-theory is able to generate the range

of readings we observe for operators in than-clauses. It seems somewhat

simpler than the Pi-theory in that it does not take recourse to intervals in

addition to a scopally flexible than-clause internal operator. But as in the case

of the Pi-theory, we must next ask ourselves what prevents the unavailable

readings, e.g. what excludes the LF in (52a).

The NOT-theory would have an empirical advantage over the Pi-theory if con-

straints on scope could be found to deal with the overgeneration problem we

noted above. A first successful application are polarity items. Example (53a)

can only have the LF in (54b), not the one in (54a), according to constraints on

the distribution of NPIs. Thus we only derive the approproate interpretation.

Note though that the Pi-theory has the same success since the scope of Pi

is a downward entailing environment, but the rest of the than-clause isn’t

(compare Heim 2006b). (55) is the mirror image.

1:18

Quantifiers in than-clauses

b. #∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & ∃x[girl(x) & Height(x) < d]]

there is a girl who is shorter than John.

c. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & NOT ∃x[girl(x) & Height(x) ≥ d]]

John reaches a height degree that no girl reaches.

= John is taller than every girl.

(54) a. *than λd [any girl [1 [NOT [t1 is d tall]]]]

b. than λd [NOT [any girl [1 [t1 is d tall]]]]

(55) John is taller than some girl is.

The one in (56b) was already rejected above as uninformative. It turns out that

the alternative interpretation is equally uninformative. The ungrammaticality

of negation in than-clauses is thus captured elegantly by this theory. Here it

has an advantage over the Pi-theory.

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & for no girl x : Height(x) < d] uninformative

c. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & NOT for no girl x : Height(x) ≥ d] uninfor-

mative

= ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & some girl x : Height(x) ≥ d]

modals. He argues that the NOT-theory predicts that modals in than-clauses

should give rise to the same reading that they have with ordinary clause-mate

negation. This prediction is borne out, as the examples below illustrate.

b. than he is allowed to be.

(58) a. John might not be that tall. might NOT

b. than he might be.

(59) a. John is not supposed to be that tall. supposed NOT

b. than he is supposed to be.

(60) a. John is not required to be that tall. NOT required

b. than he is required to be.

While this is helpful with modals, it stops short of explaining the interpreta-

tion associated with intensional full verbs like predict.

1:19

Sigrid Beck

b. than he was predicted to be.

Two further possible constraints are discussed. Van Rooij (2008) examines

universal DPs and Gajewski (2008) investigates numeral DPs. Let us consider

both in turn.

Note first that a universal DP is ambiguous relative to clause mate nega-

tion. In particular it allows a reading in which the universal takes narrow

scope relative to negation. Thus there are no inherent scope constraints that

would help us to exclude (630 b) as an LF of (63a). But exclude it we must,

since it gives rise to the unavailable reading (63c).

b. than every girl is.

(63) a. John is taller than every girl is.

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) < d]]

‘Every girl is shorter than John.’

c. #∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & NOT ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) ≥ d]]

‘John reaches a height that some girl doesn’t.’

= John is taller than the shortest girl.

(630 ) a. than λd [every girl [1 [NOT [t1 is d tall]]]]

b. *than λd [NOT [every girl [1 [t1 is d tall]]]]

Van Rooij observes that (630 a) yields stronger truth conditions than (630 b). He

proposes that if no independent constraint excludes one of the LFs, you have

to pick the one that results in the stronger truth conditions. This amounts to

the suggestion that than-clauses fall within the realm of application of the

Strongest Meaning Hypothesis (SMH; Dalrymple, Kanazawa, Kim, Mchombo &

Peters 1998). If they do, the NOT-theory can make the desired predictions

about every DPs (and some other relevant examples). So could the Pi-theory,

though, so this does not distinguish between the two scope based theories of

quantifiers in than-clauses.

While I am sympathetic to the idea of extending application of the SMH, I

see some open questions for doing so in the case of than-clauses. Dalrymple

et al. originally proposed the SMH to deal with the interpretation of recipro-

cals. (64a) receives a stronger interpretation than (64b), for example, because

the predicate to stare at makes it factually impossible for the reading of (64a)

to ever be true. Similarly for (64c) vs. (64a,b). But (64a) only has one inter-

1:20

Quantifiers in than-clauses

pretation, the strongest one, and (64b) also cannot have a reading parallel to

(64c). The SMH says, very roughly, that out of the set of theoretically possible

interpretations you choose the strongest one that has a chance of resulting

in a true statement, i.e. that is conceptually possible.3

= everyone knows everyone else.

b. These three people were staring at each other.

= everyone was staring at someone else.

c. These three people followed each other into the elevator.

= everyone followed, or was followed by, someone else.

wish it to apply in (62) for instance because it would predict that there is

no ambiguity. When there is ambiguity, the data in question must not be

subject to the SMH. Are than-clauses in the domain of application of the SMH?

Prima facie, this seems very plausible, because — just like reciprocals — they

are (almost always) unambiguous, while semantic theory provides several

potential interpretations. What strikes me as problematic is that there is

no way to make the weaker reading emerge, even if the stronger reading is

conceptually impossible. The following sentences are necessarily false, rather

than having the interpretations indicated.

The next to last finalist was faster than every other finalist.

≠ the next to last finalist was faster than the slowest other finalist.

3 Below I provide the formulation of the SMH given in Beck 2001. If we extend the domain of

application of the SMH to than-clauses, we need to strike out those phrases that make explicit

reference to reciprocals, as indicated. The relevant point is that the SMH makes reference

to interpretations compatible with non-linguistic information I, which in the examples in

(640 ) below would be knowledge about the order of finalists, elevator buttons and weekdays,

parallel to knowledge about processions of people and possibilities for staring in (64).

Let Sr be the set of theoretically possible reciprocal interpretations for a sentence

S. Then, S can be uttered felicitously in a context c, which supplies non-linguistic

information I relevant to the reciprocal’s interpretation, provided that the set Sc has

a member that entails every other one.

Sc = {p: p is consistent with I and p ∈ Sr }

In that case, the use of S in c expresses the logically strongest proposition in Sc .

1:21

Sigrid Beck

b. (in an elevator:)

The second button from the bottom is higher than every other

button.

≠ the second button from the bottom is higher than the lowest

other button.

c. Friday is earlier than every other day of the week. ≠ Friday is

earlier than the latest other day of the week.

LF that gives rise to the ‘the least . . . other’ reading for universal DPs simply

did not exist.

Turning now to numeral DPs, note first that it is not immediately obvious

how the NOT-theory predicts a plausible meaning for them at all. Gajewski

(2008) points out that the following analysis of exactly-DPs gives rise to truth

conditions that are too weak. (650 ) would be true in a situation in which more

than three girls stay below John’s height.

(650 ) ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & for exactly 3 girls x : Height(x) < d]

At least three girls are below John’s height

_ _ _ • _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _/

g1 g2 g3 g4 g5

d H(J)

there is a degree of height that John reaches that is not reached by

exactly 3 girls,

i.e. fewer or more girls reach that degree

true e.g. if John is taller than every one of five girls

at least and at most, according to which these elements take effect at the level

of the utterance, far away from their surface position. I present this analysis

in simplified terms below, using (66) to illustrate. The semantic effect of

exactly is due to an operator I call EXACT, which applies at the utterance

level and operates on the basis of the ordinary as well as the focus semantic

1:22

Quantifiers in than-clauses

value of its argument. The operator’s semantics is given in (67). The truth

conditions derived for the example are the right ones, as shown in (68) ((68)

uses Link’s (1983) operator ∗ for pluralization of the noun).

b. [EXACT [XP (exactly) threeF girls weigh 50 lb.]]

(660 ) threeF girls weigh 50 lb.o =

∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = 3 & ∗weigh.50.lb(X)]

threeF girls weigh 50 lb.f =

{∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = n & ∗weigh.50.lb(X)] : n ∈ N}

(67) EXACT(XPf )(XPo ) = 1

iff XPo = 1 & ∀q ∈ XPf : ¬(XPo → q) → ¬q

’Out of all the alternatives of XP, the most informative true one is the

ordinary semantics of XP.’

(68) (66b) = 1 iff

∃X[∗ girl(X)&card(X) = 3 & ∗weigh.50.lb(X)] &

∀n[n > 3 → ¬∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = n & ∗weigh.50.lb(X)]] iff

max(λn.∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = n & ∗weigh.50.lb(X)]) = 3

the LF in (69), which captures the right meaning, namely the interpretation in

(690 ).

(69) EXACT [∃ [λd [John is d-tall] [than λd [threeF girls [λx [NOT x is

d-tall]]]]

(690 ) max(λn. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & for n girls x : Height(x) < d])

the largest number n such that John reaches a height that n girls

don’t is 3. = exactly three girls are shorter than John.

theory to derive the desired interpretation. However, there is still the question

of the other LF, (70), in which NOT takes scope over the DP. This gives rise to

interpretation (700 ).

(70) EXACT [∃ [λd [John is d-tall] [than λd [NOT threeF girls [λx [x is

d-tall]]]]

(700 ) max(λn. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & NOT for n girls x : Height(x) ≥ d])

the largest number n such that there is a height John reaches and it’s

1:23

Sigrid Beck

= exactly two girls are shorter than John.

The reasoning in (71) makes it clear that this reading leads to truth conditions

that do not correspond to an available reading; they would make the sentence

true in the situation depicted, where there are two girls shorter than John.

= ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & fewer than n girls reach d]

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & fewer than 3 girls reach d]

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/

• • • • • •

g1 g2 g3 g4 g5

H(J)

The NOT-theory would have to come up with an explanation for why this

reading is unavailable. I am not aware that there is at present such an

explanation. Note that even if we didn’t have the reservations about the SMH

pointed out above, it would not apply here, as the two interpretations don’t

stand in an entailment relation.

To summarize: just like the Pi-theory, the NOT-theory faces an overgen-

eration problem. Both the Pi-theory and the NOT-theory solve this easily

regarding NPIs. The NOT-theory also has a simple story about modals and

negative quantifiers. It does not have an explanation for intensional full verbs

and numeral DPs, and I argue it does not have a story about universal DPs (or

other prospective applications of the SMH) either. Thus I see some progress

compared to the Pi-theory, but not a complete analysis. A conceptual advan-

tage seems to be the NOT-theory’s simplicity. But we will need to reexamine

that in the next subsection.

which it deals with explicit reference to degrees. For example differentials in

comparatives, illustrated in (72) and (73), receive an easy and natural analysis.

b. John is 200 taller than that.

c. Height(J) ≥ 200 + 1.70 m

1:24

Quantifiers in than-clauses

b. Height(J) ≥ 200 + max(λd. Height(B) ≥ d)

= Height(J) ≥ 200 + Height(B)

semantics of a simple example is repeated in (74). That is because the

than-clause does not refer to a degree.

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & NOT Height(B) ≥ d]

this problem. He proposes to understand (75a) in terms of (75b); I simplify

this to (75c) for the purposes of discussion.

b. ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & 200 (λd0 . d0 ≤ d & Height(B) < d0 )]

c. 200 (λd0 . d0 ≤ Height(J) & Height(B) < d0 )])

“the degrees between Bill’s height and John’s are a 200 interval”

200 interval

_ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _/

H(B) H(J)

replace NOT in the than-clause with an operator FALL-SHORT. The resulting

LF of our example is given in (750 a) and the semantics of FALL-SHORT in

(750 b). Diff is a variable that is the first argument of FALL-SHORT, to be

bound outside the than-clause and identified with the differential in the

matrix clause (as if the differential was raised out of the embedded clause to

its main clause position).

b. FALL-SHORT = λDiff.λDh d, ti.λd. Diff(λd0 . d0 ≤ d & D(d0 ) = 0)

c. Diff(λd0 . d0 ≤ d& Height(B) < d0 )

Bill’s Height is a Diff-large distance below d

We combine with the differential next, as shown in (76). Then, the degree d is

bound and the usual semantic mechanisms combine this with the rest of the

main clause in (77). This derives (75).

1:25

Sigrid Beck

b. λd. 200 (λd0 . d0 ≤ d& Height(B) < d0 )]

Bill’s Height is a 200 distance below d

(77) [∃ [λd [John is d-tall] [200 er] [λDiff [than Bill is tall]]]

NOT-theory. The basic points about than-clause scope interaction remain the

same (as the reader may verify), but some of the explanation is less obvious.

In particular, I don’t see that scopal behaviour of a modal with same clause

negation necessarily predicts scopal behaviour relative to FALL-SHORT, any

more than it predicts scopal behaviour relative to Pi. I also believe that we

lose the explanation of the unacceptability of negative quantifiers. Neither

of the readings associated with the two possible LFs below is necessarily

uninformative. Finally, I no longer see that the FALL-SHORT-theory is simpler

than the Pi-theory.

b. [∃ [λd [J. is d-tall] [200 er] [λDiff [than [[FALL-SHORT Diff] λd [no

girl is d-tall]]]

c. [∃ [λd [J. is d-tall] [200 er] [λDiff [than [no girl λx [FALL-SHORT

Diff] λd [x is d-tall]]]]]

(780 ) ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d&200 (λd0 . d0 ≤ d & [λd. no girl is d-tall](d0 ) = 0)]]

= ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & 200 (λd0 . d0 ≤ d & some girl is d0 -tall])]

= John and some girl are at least two inches tall.

(7800 ) ∃d[Height(J) ≥ d & no girl x : 200 (λd0 . d0 ≤ d& Height(x) < d0 )]

= no girl is 200 shorter than John.

I conclude that while the type of analysis discussed in this section — what

one might call scopal theories of quantifiers in than-clauses — has brought

forth some very interesting ideas, there are also unanswered questions. It

may be worthwhile to pursue a scopeless alternative, which is what I will do

in the next section.

3 Analysis: Selection

Wilkinson and Heim. Schwarzschild & Wilkinson’s use of intervals is retained

in order to be able to interpret a quantifier inside a than-clause. But like Heim,

1:26

Quantifiers in than-clauses

of the comparative. The novel aspect of the analysis below concerns how

this is done. I do not adopt a than-clause internal operator Pi and I do not

rely on semantic reconstruction. I propose instead that there is a mechanism

that derives a particular degree from an interval provided by the than-clause.

This degree is compared in the normal way with a matrix clause degree.

The trick will be to ensure that the degree chosen is the right one, i.e. that

the comparison ultimately made reflects the intuitively accessible reading of

the comparative sentence in question. The same selection mechanism will

account for both apparent wide scope and apparent narrow scope readings.

The analysis will not employ a scoping mechanism that is specific to compar-

atives. Its relation to the earlier work discussed above can be simply stated

as ‘keep the intervals, but not the operator’.

Two rationales guide me in pursuing this approach. The first is that a

scoping mechanism inside the than-clause overgenerates in ways that we have

yet to find the means of constraining. Therefore it would be an advantage to

make do without such an extra scopal element. The second is that it remains

a strength of the classical analysis that degree operators combine directly

with expressions referring to degrees, and that differentials in particular can

be accounted for in a direct and straightforward way. Therefore I want to

come out of the calculation of the semantics of the than-clause holding in

my hand the degree we will be comparing things to. The combination of

these two lines of reasoning persuades me to attempt a simplification of

Schwarzschild & Wilkinson, which should of course also cover the apparent

narrow scope data that were problematic for them.

Section 3.1 presents the idea behind the selection analysis and applies it to

straightforward cases. Apparent narrow scope universals are not straightfor-

ward and addressed in Section 3.2. Apparent wide scope existentials similarly

seem problematic and are the issue of Section 3.3. In Section 3.4 I reexamine

comparatives that combine a differential with a quantifier in the than-clause

and propose a refinement of the analysis of the comparative to capture the

data.

I illustrate the idea behind the selection analysis with example (79), which

would not in fact require intervals at all of course. But, suppose that we in

general compositionally derive as the meaning of the than-clause a set of

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Sigrid Beck

Suppose furthermore that this comes from the basic lexical entry of the

adjective, as indicated in (80). This is what I will assume in this section, for

the sake of uniformity (see Section 4 for more discussion). It amounts to (790 )

in the present case. How do I propose to derive the truth conditions of (79a),

(79b), from that?

b. Height(John) > Height(Bill)

(790 ) [than Bill is tall] = λD 0 . Height(Bill) ∈ D 0

a.

b. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ •

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/

H(B) _

Intervals

containing

.. Bill’s height

.

_

fact, force us — to pick from the set of intervals something that is suitable

as the input to the comparative operator repeated in (81). I represent this

selection mechanism as the in (7900 ) for the moment. This subsection asks

what the appropriate meaning for the is. (Note that the term ‘selection’ is

not intended to imply that there is a genuine choice; I intend to provide one

semantics for the.)

(7900 )

John is taller than the than-clause

In the present case, the could be an operator selecting the shortest interval

from the set, i.e. Bill’s height, cf. (82). This seems a natural choice, given that

all other intervals contain extraneous material and that the point that really

‘counts’ is just Bill’s height.

(82)

(shortest p interval)

1:28

Quantifiers in than-clauses

Irene Heim and Danny Fox (p.c.) point out to me that the sense in which

choosing the minimal interval is ‘natural’ is informativity. (83) below states

what the maximally informative propositions out of a set of true propositions

(say, a question meaning) are.

i

¬∃q Q(w)(q ) & q 6= q & Q(w)(q0 ) → Q(w)(q)

0 0 0

the set of true answers to Q in w) is the set of propositions q in

Q(w) such that there is no other proposition q0 in Q(w) such

that Q(w)(q0 ) entails Q(w)(q) (i.e. if q0 is in Q(w) then so is q).

(84a) is the true answer that entails all the other true answers, i.e. John’s

maximal speed (for example the proposition that he drove 50 mph), and in

a parallel way the minimum amount of flour that suffices in (84b)(see Heim

1994; Beck & Rullmann 1999).

λw. λp. ∃d p(w) & p = λw 0 . John drove d-fast in w 0

{that John drove 50 mph, that John drove 49 mph, that John

drove 48 mph, . . . }

b. How much flour is sufficient?

λw.λp.∃d[p(w)&p = λw 0 .d-much flour is sufficient in w 0 ]

{that 500 g is sufficient, that 501 g is sufficient, that 502 g is

sufficient, . . . }

The definition can be extended to (intensions of) arbitrary sets in the following

way:

m_inf(w)(p &

i

¬∃q p(w)(q ) & q 6= q → p(w)(q0 ) & p(w)(q)

0 0 0

i

¬∃D p(w)(D ) & D 6= D & p(w)(D 0 ) → p(w)(D)

0 0 0

is the set of intervals D such that there is no other interval D 0 in

p(w) such that p(w)(D 0 ) entails p(w)(D) (i.e. if D is in p(w)

then so is D 0 ).

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Sigrid Beck

Fox & Hackl (2006) argue that we want to extend the definition from the

question case to others in order to capture the similarity between (84a,b)

above and (87a), (88a). (87a) refers to the maximum speed John reached and

(88a) refers to the minimum amount that suffices, both maximally informative

in the sense of (85). The instance in (86) extends the analogy from (84a,b)

and (87a), (88a) to (87b), (88b).

b. than John drove

(88) a. the amount of flour that is sufficient

b. than is sufficient

Hence, the in (7900 ) is m_inf, which yields a singleton, combined with taking

from a set its only member (here represented with max). We can understand

these operators as semantic ‘glue’ (a term introduced by Partee 1984, see

also von Stechow 1995): operations that have to enter into composition, in

addition to what the syntax strictly speaking provides, in order to make

the sentence parts combinable. Their presence is required by the need for

interpretability.

the selection analysis: there is no choice in ‘selecting’ a point from a set of

intervals. Only one interpretation is possible for (79). The ‘glue’ we have here

is entirely semantic (and not, say, subject to pragmatic variability). Although

we will see in a moment that quantifiers in than-clauses require some more

elaboration, this will be preserved. Selection means, basically, taking from

the minimal interval(s) the maximal element.

Let’s return to the now familiar example (89). We take the than-clause to have

the denotation in (890 ).

b. For every girl x: John’s height exceeds x’s height.

1:30

Quantifiers in than-clauses

interval

into which the height of every girl falls

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/

• • • •

x1 x2 x3 J

son between John’s height and the end point of the interval into which all

the girls’ heights fall. If John is taller than the tallest girl, he is taller than all

of them. Thus I propose that from the denotation of the than-clause that is

given in (890 ), we first choose the shortest = maximally informative interval

that fits the description (i.e. that covers all the girls’ heights) and then select

the maximal point of that interval.4

(90) John is taller than Max> m_inf(than-clause)

= John is taller than the height of the tallest girl

(91) and (92) below provide the relevant definitions. We extend the notion of

the ordering relation underlying our degree scale from degrees to intervals,

(91). We can then define the maximal element of a set of intervals, and finally

the end point of an interval, (92).

d is larger than d0

I > J iff ∃d d ∈ I & ∀d0 [d0 ∈ J → d > d0 ]

b. ordering of intervals:

I extends beyond J

(92) a. max> := the max relative to the > relation on intervals or degrees

b. Max> (p) := max> (max> (p))

= the end ‘point’ of the interval that extends furthest

can be treated in the exact same way. This is illustrated below with the

4 Fox & Hackl propose to replace maximality with maximal informativity. I have not been able

to develop an analysis that incorporates that proposal. The reason is lack of entailment

among the degrees in the minimal than-clause interval: If I know of a degree d that it falls

in between the height of the smallest girl and the height of the tallest girl, I cannot infer

that a degree d0 larger than d also falls within that interval (d0 might be beyond the height

of the tallest girl) and I cannot infer that a smaller degree d00 also falls within that interval

(d00 might be below the height of the shortest girl). Therefore I will use both maximal

informativity and ordinary maximality.

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Sigrid Beck

be between 1.70 m and 1.80 m tall, then the interval [1.70–1.80] is the unique

shortest interval described by the than-clause. The end point of that interval

is 1.80 m, and the example is correctly predicted to be true if John is taller

than 1.80 m.

b. For every world compatible with my predictions:

John’s actual height exceeds Johns height in that world.

(930 ) [than I had predicted (that he would be tall)] =

λD 0 . ∀w[wR@ → John’s height in w ∈ D 0 ]

intervals into which John’s height falls in all my predictions

(9300 ) John is taller than Max> (m_inf(than-clause))

= John is taller than the height according to the tallest prediction

What I call selection yields the maximum relative to the ordering relation

linguistically given — ‘larger than’ on the size scale in the case of taller. This

follows from more general interpretive mechanisms suggested independently

(compare Jacobson 1995; Fox & Hackl 2006). Application of these mecha-

nisms is required by the need for the than-clause to serve as input to the

comparative operator.

We can apply the same strategy to narrow scope existentials. This is illus-

trated with (94) below. In contrast to Heim’s analysis and like Schwarzschild

& Wilkinson’s, I assume that the than-clause denotes the set of intervals in

(940 ) (once more via the shifted lexical entry for the adjective, (80)). Impor-

tantly, remember that I assume that the shift to intervals must take place

locally, i.e. within the adjective phrase. I do not assume a genuine mobile op-

erator Pi like Heim (2006b) does (whose LF for (94a) would give Pi wide scope

relative to anyone). We dispense with the interpretations for than-clauses

that were attributed to wide scope of the Pi operator.

b. Mary’s height exceeds the largest degree of tallness reached by

one of the others.

(940 ) [than anyone else is tall] = λD 0 . ∃x[x ≠ Mary & Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]

intervals into which the height of someone other than Mary falls

1:32

Quantifiers in than-clauses

of the other relevant people. (Thus we get rid of the intervals immediately.)

Out of these, we choose the maximum. This results in the same meaning as

under the classical analysis. Thus the same selection strategy that we used

above will predict the right truth conditions. The analysis extends to other

apparent narrow scope existentials like be allowed etc.

(95) _ _ _ _• _ _ _ _• _ _ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _ _ •

_ _ _ _ _ _ _/

x1 x2 x3 M

= Mary is taller than the height of the tallest other person.

The selection strategy predicts the right truth conditions for these ‘apparent

narrow scope’ and ‘apparent wide scope’ quantifier data without changing

scope. This allows us to predict ungrammaticality of negation straightfor-

wardly, as illustrated below.

3.1.3 Negation

undefined contribution of the than-clause (von Stechow 1984; Rullmann 1995).

The selection analysis presented here can retain this desirable prediction.

The meaning of the than-clause is (960 ), in accordance with what is said

above. This is the only meaning possible for the than-clause.

(960 ) than no girl is tall = λD 0 . for no girl x : Height(x) ∈ D 0

intervals into which the height of no girl falls

(960 ) will not yield a well-defined meaning for the comparative. Just as in

the original analysis of these data, the than-clause will not provide us with a

maximum, since there is no largest interval containing no girl’s height. Max>

is undefined; hence negation in the than-clause leads to undefinedness of the

comparative as a whole. Since there is no other option, we no longer face

the problem of ruling out the apparent wide scope reading of the negative

quantifier.

The simple data discussed in this subsection highlight the potential attrac-

tion of the selection analysis. We keep a simple semantics for the comparative

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Sigrid Beck

we turn to all the complications.

This subsection concerns universal quantifiers that do not behave like every

girl, predict and other apparent wide scope universals. Remember from Sec-

tion 2 that modals like have to appear to favour a narrow scope interpretation

rather than the apparent wide scope interpretation described and derived

above for other universals.

(97) Mary wants to play basketball. The school rules require all players to

be at least 1.70 m.

(970 ) a. Mary is taller than she has to be.

b. Mary’s actual height exceeds the degree of tallness which she has

in all worlds compatible with the school rules;

i.e. Mary’s actual height exceeds the required minimum, 1.70 m.

will assume (98) for this example. Selecting the maximum of the shortest

than-clause interval will not yield the desired truth conditions this time,

though: that would amount to the claim that Mary’s height exceeds the

maximum height permitted. The sentence intuitively says that Mary is above

the required minimum. Contrasts like the one between have to and predict

are of course what motivates the scope analysis (apparent wide scope for

predict, apparent narrow scope for have to). A different description of the

facts is that the example with predict (and similar examples with every girl,

should, etc.) has a ‘more than maximum’ interpretation while have to can

have a ‘more than minimum’ interpretation. I see the task for my approach

as having to explain how factors independent of comparative semantics may

result in a ‘more than minimum’ interpretation rather than the expected

‘more than maximum’ reading.

D0 ]

intervals into which Mary’s height falls in all worlds compatible with

the rules

the beginning of this interval is below Mary’s actual height, i.e. Mary’s

height exceeds the minimal element of the shortest than-clause inter-

val

1:34

Quantifiers in than-clauses

There are two analyses, as far as I am aware, that propose to reduce the

variation in the interpretation of than-clauses with universal modals between

maximum and minimum interpretation to independent factors, such that

the readings collapse into one. Meier (2002) proposes that the ordering

source that modal semantics uses is responsible for a contextually guided

determination of the interpretation, explaining away apparent maxima and

minima both. Krasikova (2008) examines the problem of have to–type modals

in comparatives in particular and employs covert exhaustification to explain

away apparent ‘more than minimum’ interpretations. While both approaches

solve the problem at hand equally well for my purposes, I describe below

Krasikova’s suggestions because they seem to me to offer more promise for

identifying which modal operators give rise to which reading(s).

Krasikova (2008) points out that whether we get a ‘more than minimum’

reading like the one illustrated above for this type of modal or a ‘more than

maximum’ reading parallel to the reading illustrated for predict depends on

the context an individual example is put into. Remember example (99) from

above, which shows that have to–type modals may also give rise to a ‘more

than maximum’ reading — the reading we expect under the present analysis.5

Thus what distinguishes have to–type modals from others is the availability

of an apparent narrow scope reading (a ‘more than minimum’ reading under

the present perspective).

(99) He was coming through later than he had to if he were going to retain

the overall lead. (from Google, cited from Krasikova 2008)

Krasikova further observes that the universal modals that can give rise to

the ‘more than minimum’/apparent narrow scope reading are just the ones

that occur in sufficiency modal constructions (SMC). An example of an SMC

is given below (von Fintel & Iatridou 2005).

(100) You only have to go to the North End (to get good cheese).

5 It is not at present clear to me under what circumstances a have to–type modal seems

to permit a more-than-maximum interpretation. Relevant factors may be the choice of a

negative polar adjective and a subjunctive-like interpretation (Danny Fox and Irene Heim,

p.c.). Personally, I find this interpretation very hard to get.

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Sigrid Beck

ficult than to go to the North End (to get

good cheese).

Implicature: You have to go to the North End or do

something at least as difficult (to get good

cheese).

The combination of only and a modal in the SMC considers alternatives to the

proposition that is the complement of have to, and ranks those alternatives

on a scale. Plausible alternatives for our example and their ranking are given

in (101). They provide the domain of quantification, C in (102); (102a) sketches

a structure for the example, (102b) a meaning for ‘only have to’ and (102c)

the outcome, which corresponds to the desired truth conditions (1000 ). Note

that the SMC reading is one that identifies the point on a scale that is the

minimum sufficiency point, as illustrated in (103).

(101) a. that you go to the nearest supermarket, that you go to the North

End, that you go to New York, that you go to Italy

b. SUPER < NE < NY < Italy (where ‘<’ means: is easier than)

(102) a. [[only have to]C,< [you go to the North End]]

b. [only have to]C,< (p)(w) = 1 iff

∀q[q ∈ g(C)&¬(q < p) → ¬have to(q)(w)]

c. For all q such that q is in g(C) and ¬(q < NE) : ¬have to(q)

(103) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ • _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/

necessary not necessary

NE

My sketch leaves unaddressed all the thorny problems of the SMC construc-

tion like the composition of only and have to with the rest of the clause,

and the problem of only’s presupposition; compare in particular von Fintel &

Iatridou 2005 and Krasikova & Zhechev 2006. What is important for present

purposes is Krasikova’s observation that the interpretation that have to–type

modals give rise to in than-clauses can be seen as an SMC interpretation. The

‘more than minimum’ interpretation just like the SMC identifies the point

on a scale that is the minimum sufficiency point. Whatever is a plausible

analysis of the SMC should be extendable to the problem at hand.

(104) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/

necessary

• not necessary

1.70 m

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

Krasikova suggests that have to–type modals can use Fox’s (2007) covert

exhaustivity operator EXH instead of only, whose meanings are basically the

same. This is what happens in our comparatives, and this is responsible for

the ‘more than minimum’ interpretition.6 A structure for the than-clause

of (970 a) is given in (105a). Its interpretation using (102b) is (105b). Suppose

now that the relevant alternatives are the propositions in (106a), which place

Mary’s height in varying intervals. Our context is such that difficulties arise

with respect to reaching a certain height. Being short is not hard, being

tall is difficult. Thus the ordering of the alternatives in (106a) is one that

ranks them according to the height of the interval on the tallness scale into

which Mary’s height falls. The requirement easiest to meet is the minimal

compliance height. Given this, (105b) can be paraphrased as (105c).

b. [λD 0 . ∀q[q ∈ g(C) & ¬(q < λw. M’s height in w ∈ D 0 ) →

¬have to(q)]]

0

c. [λD . nothing more difficult is required than for Mary’s height

to fall within D 0 ]

(106) a. {λw. Mary’s height in w ∈ D1 , λw. Mary’s height in w ∈ D2 ,

λw. Mary’s height in w ∈ D3 , . . . }

b. If the ordering in terms of height is D1 < D2 < D3 . . . then:

λw. M’s height in w ∈ D1 < λw. M’s height in w ∈ D2 <

λw. M’s height in w ∈ D3 < . . .

(where ‘<’ means: is easier; in our context, being shorter is easier

than taller.)

Applying maximal informativity as usual yields the meaning below for the

subordinate clause, the minimum ‘point’ as desired. Selection with Max>

is trivial; the resulting meaning is that Mary’s actual height exceeds the

minimum compliance height.

6 As an anonymous reviewer points out, this raises the question of why we cannot have an

overt only in such sentences, cf. the ungrammaticality of (ia). The editors point out that

extraction of the associate of only is not good, cf. (ib). This would have to be different for

EXH than for only in order to answer the reviewer’s question.

b. *WhoF did Mary only _ call?

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Sigrid Beck

(107) m_inf([λD. nothing more difficult is required than for Mary’s height

to fall within D])

= {the minimum compliance height}

= {[1.70–1.70]}

SMC readings of have to–type modals explain the ‘more than minimum’

reading that they can give rise to in comparative than-clauses with the single

assumption that EXH takes the place of only. Internal to the subordinate

clause, exhaustification occurs. Exhaustification of the than-clause reduces

the than-clause interval to a point. The ‘point’ that exhaustification yields is

the minimum compliance height.

I follow Krasikova in making the connection between SMC use and ‘more

than minimum’ readings and in her analysis in terms of exhaustification. This

allows me to maintain the selection analysis from the previous subsection.

According to this analysis, have to–type modals don’t require any revision of

the semantics of comparative constructions. We need to take into account

the special semantics of SMC modals instead. Contrary to appearances,

we uniformly select a degree from an interval via Max> ; with have to, we

may apply Max> after exhaustification. This gives rise to a ‘more than

minimum’/apparent narrow scope reading. If exhaustification does not apply,

we get the regular ‘more than maximum’ = apparent wide scope reading (cf.

example (99) above). Modals that do not permit an SMC reading do not permit

a ‘more than minimum’ reading either, because the ‘more than minimum’

reading is an SMC reading. I refer the reader to Krasikova 2008 for further

discussion. Crucially for present purposes the correlation with SMC use

provides an independent criterion for when to expect which reading. The

contrast between the different kinds of universal quantifiers is not analysed

as a scope effect. The analysis argued for here makes the interpetation of

have to–type modals a property of those particular lexical items. They are

the only apparent narrow scope items requiring special attention since in

contrast to the scope analysis’ procedure, apparent narrow scope existentials

have already been taken care of.

This section concerns existential quantifiers that do not behave like NPI any

and other apparent narrow scope existentials. The problem for the selection

1:38

Quantifiers in than-clauses

(1080 ) a. Exactly five of John’s classmates are shorter than he is.

b. #John is taller than the tallest of his 5 or more classmates.

The intuitively available interpretation (1080 a) looks once more like a straight-

forward wide scope reading of the numeral quantifier. Application of the

selection strategy predicts an interpretation that is unavailable, (1080 b), as

illustrated below.

intervals into which the height of exactly 5 classmates falls

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . for exactly 5 x : max(λd. x is d-tall) ∈ D 0 ])) =

the height of John’s tallest classmate, as long as there are at least 5

_ _ •_ _ _•_ _ _• _ _ _ _ •_ _ _•_ _ _• _ _ _• _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _/

c1 c2 c3 c4 c5 c6 c7 c8

Max>

We face the combined challenge of (i) predicting the right interpretation and

(ii) not predicting the non-existing one. I propose to tackle this problem

through a more thorough analysis of numeral NPs. We will first consider

indefinite NPs in the context of than-clauses and then move on to numerals

and example (108).

apparent wide scope and an apparent narrow scope reading. Which reading(s)

is/are possible depends on the indefinite as well as the sentence context.

We have seen examples with NPIs in which only the narrow scope reading is

available. An example that has a wide scope reading is given in (110). (111)

and (112) provide two examples which I take to be genuinely ambiguous (the

English version of (111) probably is too, although native speakers seem to

have some difficulty judging the example).

b. There is a girl x such that John is taller than x.

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Sigrid Beck

Annett has louder sung than a soprano

‘Annett sang more loudly than a soprano did.’ (German)

(1110 ) a. There is a soprano x such that Annett sang more loudly than x.

b. Annett sang more loudly than any soprano did.

(112) Sveta could solve this problem faster than some undergrad could.

(1120 ) a. There is an undergrad x such that Sveta could solve this problem

faster than x could.

b. Sveta could solve this problem faster than any undergrad could.

above (with an NPI indefinite, anyone else) how the selection analysis can

derive an appropriate interpretation corresponding to the apparent narrow

scope reading. What about the apparent wide scope reading? One option

open to us is to acknowledge that indefinites quite often give rise to apparent

wide scope readings — so-called specific readings — and to adopt whatever

mechanism is appropriate for the analysis of specific readings in general for

apparent wide scope indefinites in than-clauses. This is what I will do, and I

use the choice function mechanism as the probably best known analysis of

specific indefinites (e.g. Reinhart 1992; Kratzer 1998; but see Endriss 2009 for

a different analysis). I illustrate with example (113a) from Heim 1982, where a

friend of mine can have apparent scope over the conditional.

There is a friend of mine such that if a cat likes him, I give it to

him.

b. ∃f : CH(f ) & [if a cat likes f(friend of mine), I give it to him]

If a cat likes the friend of mine selected by f (f a choice function),

I give it to him.

Furthermore, I will assume that indefinite NPs, e.g. with German ein (‘a’),

are ambiguous between the ‘normal’ interpretation ‘∃x’ (existential quan-

tification over individuals) and the ‘specific’ interpretation ‘∃f ’ (existential

quantification over choice functions). Below I provide a selection analysis

of the two readings of (111) under those assumptions.7 On this analysis,

the apparent narrow scope reading amounts to a ‘∃x’ interpretation and

7 I use the German example because the larger English inventory of indefinites makes it hard

for me to determine which examples are genuinely ambiguous.

1:40

Quantifiers in than-clauses

the apparent wide scope reading amounts to a ‘∃f ’ interpretation for the

indefinite.

= [λD 0 . ∃x[soprano(x) & max(λd. x sang d-loudly) ∈ D 0 ]]

intervals that cover the loudness of soprano singers

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∃x[soprano(x)&max(λd. x sang d-loudly) ∈

D 0 ]]))

= Annett sang more loudly than the loudest soprano.

= Annett sang more loudly than any soprano did.

b. [als [1 [einef Sopranistin t1 laut gesungen hat]]]

= [λD 0 . max(λd. f (soprano)sang d-loudly) ∈ D 0 ]

intervals that include the loudness of the soprano selected by f

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . max(λd. f (soprano) sang d-loudly) ∈ D 0 ]))

= Annett sang more loudly than the soprano selected by f (f a

choice function).

= There is a soprano x such that Annett sang more loudly than

x.

I further assume that the usual factors (in particular, the nature of the

indefinite and what readings the sentence context permits) decide when we

can get which reading(s) of a singular indefinite. I have nothing illuminating

to say about the particulars of this; note, however, that I do assume that

apparent narrow scope readings are possible with indefinites/existentials

other than NPIs. My intuitions regarding German indefinites like jemand

(someone) + anders/sonst (other/else), wh-word + other/else convince me

of this in particular, because these indefinites are not, I believe, plausibly

analysed as polarity items, nor are they plausibly analysed as generic (hence

not existential). Other languages’ inventory of indefinites may make my view

of what the interpretive possibilities of existentials in than-clauses are appear

less obvious. I am grateful in particular to Sveta Krasikova for discussion of

this point.

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Sigrid Beck

here is it nicer than elsewhere

‘It’s nicer here than it is elsewhere.’

b. possible reading:

It is nicer here than it is anywhere else.

(116) a. Sam ist schneller als jemand anderes/sonstwer.

Sam is faster than someone other/someone else

‘Sam is faster than another person.’

b. possible reading:

Sam is faster than anyone else is.

Also, the data in (117) (in addition to (111) above) provide an indefinite, ein

anderer (‘another’), that is ambiguous. Both (117a) and (117b) were collected

informally from the web. Context makes it clear that (117a) is intended to

mean ‘faster than everyone else’ and (117b) is intended to mean that someone

was slower.

(117) a. Wir denken 7-mal schneller, als ein anderer reden kann.

we think 7 times faster than an other talk can

‘We think seven times faster than anyone else can talk.’

b. Die meisten überholten mich, aber ab und zu war ich auch

the most passed me but now and then was I also

mal schneller als ein anderer.

once faster than an other

‘Most people passed me, but now and then I was faster than

someone.’

ning with bare plurals, note that many examples sound strange (thank you to

Irene Heim for example (118)).

b. ??John is taller than giraffes.

Prof. Shimoyama has a longer contribution written

als eine Doktorandin.

than a Ph.D. student

‘Prof. Shimoyama wrote a longer contribution than a Ph.D. stu-

dent.’

(ok: ∃x, ok: ∃f )

1:42

Quantifiers in than-clauses

Prof. Shimoyama has a longer contribution written

als Doktorandinnen.

than Ph.D. students

‘Prof. Shimoyama wrote a longer contribution than Ph.D. stu-

dents.’

(120) a. Hans ist schneller gelaufen als eine Schwester von Greg.

Hans ran faster than a sister of Greg’s. (ok: ∃x, ok: ∃f )

b. ??Hans ist schneller gelaufen als Schwestern von Greg.

Hans ran faster than sisters of Greg’s.

c. Hans ist schneller gelaufen als einige Schwestern von Greg.

Hans ran faster than several sisters of Greg’s. (ok: ∃f )

The version with the singular indefinite can have an apparent narrow scope or

an apparent wide scope interpretation (with some speaker variation regarding

which interpretation is favoured). It is known that bare plurals prefer narrow

scope interpretations — let’s say this implies that the choice function ‘∃f ’

interpretation is dispreferred. What the oddness of the plural data tells us,

then, is that there is something unexpectedly wrong with the non-specific ‘∃X’

interpretation of the plural indefinite (I write capital ‘X’ to indicate plurality,

in contrast to ‘x’ for singular). Note that the data (118)–(120) improve when

some or several/einige is added to the plural indefinite. They then have an

apparent wide scope or ‘∃f ’ interpretation. The following generalization

emerges:

Max> (m_inf(λD.∃x[. . . ])).

A plural indefinite ambiguous between ‘∃X’ and ‘∃f ’ will yield ‘∃f ’.

A plural indefinite that prefers the ‘∃X’ interpretation will sound

strange.

Why should a plural indefinite sound odd unless it can easily reveice a

specific interpretation? The generalization is intuitively unsurprising once

we examine the ‘∃X’ interpretation more closely. Careful consideration as to

what it would mean in the case of (120), provided in (122a), reveals that (given

that there is more than one sister of Greg’s) it would be true iff the sentence

with the singular ‘∃x’ (’any sister of Greg’s) would be true. I suggest that

this makes the interpretation (122a) somehow inappropriate for the example.

Perhaps this can be seen as a matter of economy: the plural has no purpose,

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Sigrid Beck

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∃X[∗sister(X) & ∀x ∈ X : x’s speed ∈ D 0 ]))

= Hans ran faster than any sister of Greg’s.

b. ∃f : CH(f ) & Hans ran faster than

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∀x ∈ f (∗sister) : max(λd. x ran d-fast) ∈

D 0 ]))

= Hans ran faster than each of the sisters selected by f (f a choice

function).

(dispreferred with bare plural, ok with some/several)

(123) is a first shot at what the relevant constraint might effect. The reading

that survives, (122b), is one in which, compared to the corresponding singular

indefinite, the plural serves a purpose.

Do not quantify over a plurality if quantification over a singularity

lets you infer the same reference.

similar semantics.8 Below I relate than-clauses to definite descriptions and

embedded questions (I am once more inspired by Danny Fox (p.c.) in making

this connection). The idea is that all three constructions share some sense of

maximality and/or maximal informativity (Fox & Hackl 2006 and the above

considerations). So (124a) refers to the maximal, and in the sense of (85)

above, the maximally informative speed that John ran; (124b) will require

the maximally informative answer, i.e. the maximal speed John reached; and

according to the analysis developed here, (124c) is of course analogous.

b. how fast John ran

c. than John ran

8 An anonymous reviewer and Danny Fox pointed out to me that a plural is not generally

dispreferred when a singular yields the same interpretation, contrary to a claim I made in an

earlier version of this paper. Negation and other downward monotone environments allow

plural indefinites, as the example in (i) illustrates. I thank them for pointing out this flaw to

me.

There were no women present.

1:44

Quantifiers in than-clauses

The following three sets of data replace the proper name in (124) with various

kinds of indefinites in the three constructions. The plain singular indefinite

is fine and picks out the fastest speed in the definite description and the

question as well as in the than-clause — in addition to a possible specific

reading. The bare plurals are somewhat odd, which we can explain if a

constraint like the BUMP above is operative (and the ‘∃f ’ interpretation is

dispreferred). The last set with plural some indefinites are fine and have the

specific reading. Plural indefinites with some are different from bare plurals

in easily allowing an ‘∃f ’ interpretation.

b. how fast a sister of Greg’s ran

c. than a sister of Greg’s ran

(126) a. ??the speed that sisters of Greg’s ran

b. ??how fast sisters of Greg’s ran

c. ??than sisters of Greg’s ran

(127) a. the speed that some sisters of Greg’s ran

b. how fast some sisters of Greg’s ran

c. than some sisters of Greg’s ran

These data share the problem of having to determine unique reference from

a set via maximality/informativity. They motivate the way that the BUMP

is phrased above. Perhaps it is the nature of maximality/informativity as

‘glue’ that makes it sensitive to such a constraint: the step of postulating

such operators is an inference one draws to have things make sense, and

such inferences are subject to ‘making sense’-type of requirements like the

BUMP. But I hasten to add that I am by no means confident that I understand

what is at stake and that more work ought to be done in figuring out what

the BUMP is really about.

I conclude this subsection with a couple of comments on further kinds

of indefinites. The first data point confirms the perspective on the data

developed so far with the German example (128), where the obligatorily

weak lauter (several/many) sounds very strange. Only einige (several) is

acceptable, under an apparent wide scope reading.

Annett has louder sung than several sopranos

‘Annett sang more loudly than several sopranos.’

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Sigrid Beck

ting only the BUMP violating reading (1280 a), while einige yields an acceptable

interpretation in terms of (1280 b). Our assumption about lauter vs. einige

is confirmed by (129), where only the version with einige allows the specific

interpretation of the NP ‘relatives of mine’.

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∃X[∗soprano(X) &

∀x ∈ X : max(λd. x sang d-loudly) ∈ D 0 ]))

= Annett sang more loudly than any soprano.

b. ∃f : CH(f ) & Annett sang more loudly than

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∀x ∈ f (∗soprano) : max(λd. x sang d-loudly) ∈

D 0 ]))

= Annett sang more loudly than each of the sopranos selected

by f (f a choice function)

(129) a. Wenn einige Verwandte von mir sterben, erbe ich einen Bauern-

hof.

b. Wenn lauter Verwandte von mir sterben, erbe ich einen Bauern-

hof.

‘If several relatives of mine die, I will inherit a farm.’

the apparent narrow scope reading ‘∃x’ (perhaps they have no ‘∃f ’ inter-

pretation, or perhaps that interpretation would fail to satisfy the licensing

requirements on their context). This predicts that singular NPIs only have

an apparent narrow scope reading. It also makes the interesting prediction

that plural NPIs should be odd in than-clauses. (130b) is judged degraded

compared to (130a) and (130c) by some speakers, but not by all.

(130) a. John solved this problem faster than any girl did.

b. ??John solved this problem faster than any girls did.

c. John solved this problem faster than any of the girls did.

I don’t understand why some people judge (130b) to be fine; I wonder whether

a Free Choice interpretation of any girls is possible for those who accept the

sentence.

A final remark: it is not the case that plural indefinites in than-clauses

are generally bad, not even narrow scope ones. The data in (131) embed the

indefinite beneath another operator, and the BUMP does not apply.

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

b. I buy books more often than I buy magazines.

than-clauses just like it does elsewhere. Apparent wide scope of indefinites is

analysed as pseudoscope: a specific reading. Sometimes one interpretation is

excluded by independent factors. In particular an economy constraint BUMP

can rule out ‘∃X’ for plural indefinites in than-clauses.9 The analysis rests on

how the semantic glue interacts with intervals, and on how the interpretation

is derived. I assume that the semantic glue is sensitive to BUMPy constraints,

i.e. that it is a natural place for their application.

3.3.2 Numerals

more precise in our semantic analysis of ‘exactly n’. Like Gajewski (2008), we

employ a more elaborate analysis of these numerals (compare Hackl 2001a,b;

9 It is not clear to me that competing analyses of quantifiers in than-clauses can easily explain

the pattern of singular vs. plural indefinites. To give an example, the Pi analysis (supposing

it goes along with my assumptions about the semantics of plural indefinites) predicts for (ia)

a narrow scope reading (ic) in addition to the wide scope reading (ib).

b. ∃X[∗ sister(X) & ∀x ∈ X : Speed(John) > Speed(x)]

‘Some sisters of Greg’s were slower than John.’

c. Speed(John)] > max(λd. ∃X[∗ sister(X) & ∀x ∈ X : Speed(x) ≥ d])

‘John’s speed exceeds the speed reached by the slowest member of a plurality of

sisters of Greg’s’

= John was faster than the second fastest sister of Greg’s.

d. ∃d[Speed(John) ≥ d & NOT ∃X[∗ sister(X) & ∀x ∈ X : Speed(x) ≥ d]]

e. Suppose Greg has three sisters:

_ _•_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _ _/

x1 x2 x3

every member of a plurality

of sisters of Greg’s

the plural case, but not in the singular. The reading predicted by the NOT-theory, (id), is

parallel. Depending on how hard it is to do so, an argument might be gained for the selection

analysis from the pattern of singular vs. plural indefinites in than-clauses.

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Sigrid Beck

Krifka 1999 on the semantics of such NPs). Remember the simple example

(66) and its analysis.

b. [EXACT [XP (exactly) threeF girls weigh 50 lb.]]

(660 ) threeF girls weigh 50 lb.o = ∃X[∗ girl(X)&card(X) = 3&∗ weigh. 50. lb(X)]

threeF girls weigh 50 lb.f =

{∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = n & ∗ weigh. 50. lb(X)] : n ∈ N}

(67) EXACT(XPf )(XPo ) = 1

iffXPo = 1 & ∀q ∈ XPf : ¬(XPo → q) → ¬q

‘Out of all the alternatives of XP, the most informative true one is the

ordinary semantics of XP.’

(68) (66b) = 1 iff

∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = 3 & ∗ weigh. 50. lb(X)] &

∀n[n > 3 → ¬∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = n & ∗ weigh. 50. lb(X)]] iff

max(λn. ∃X[∗ girl(X) & card(X) = n & ∗ weigh. 50. lb(X)]) = 3

This step does not immediately solve our problem. If we give the than-clause

in (108) the semantics in (132), nothing changes: we still compare with the

tallest of John’s classmates, as long as there are at least five. Notice, however,

that this interpretation is just as strange as the plain plural indefinite ‘∃X’

interpretation above, since the number information serves no real purpose

for the truth conditions.

(132) λD 0 . max(λn. ∃X[∗ classmate(X)&card(X) = n&∗ Height(X) ∈ D 0 ]) =

5

Intervals into which the height of exactly five of John’s classmantes

falls

(133) John is taller than

Max> (m_inf(λD 0 . max(λn.∃X[∗ classmate(X) & card(X) = n &

∗ Height(X) ∈ D 0 ]) = 5))

(1330 ) Presupposition: John has at least five classmates.

Assertion: He is taller than any of them.

This reading is thus ruled out by the same constraint BUMP. We should then

alternatively consider a choice function analysis of the indefinite ‘n class-

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

mates’. I combine this below with the assumption that exactly is evaluated in

the matrix clause. In (134), we derive the desired interpretation.

Max> (m_inf(λD 0 . ∀x ∈ f ((λX. ∗ classmate(X) & card(X) = n) :

Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]) = 5

’the largest number n such that John is taller than the tallest of the

n classmates of his selected by some choice function f is 5.’

(135).

(135) a. [EXACT [John is taller [than Max> m_inf [(exactly) 5f of his class-

mates are tall]]]]

b. Out of all the alternatives of the form ‘John is taller than n of his

classmates are’, the most informative true one is ‘John is taller

than 5 of his classmates are’.

cally supported by the data below, which behave in a parallel way to plural

indefinites with some, for example.

b. how fast two finalist drove

c. than two finalist drove

Thus I suggest that a proper semantic analysis of numeral NPs makes the

facts compatible with a selection solution after all.

extended to NPs with many and most, which show the same apparent wide

scope interpretations we observed for numerals.

b. There are many classmates of John’s such that he is taller than

they are.

(138) a. John is taller than most of his classmates are.

b. For most x, x a classmate of John’s: John is taller than x.

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Sigrid Beck

I will make further use of the semantics developed by Hackl (2001a,b, 2009)

for these NPs, according to which ‘many N’ is an indefinite NP including a

gradable adjective in the positive form, and ‘most N’ is correspondingly a

superlative. This makes feasible analyses that can be paraphrased in the

following way:10

(1370 ) John is taller than the tallest of the many-membered group of class-

mates of his selected by f (f a choice function).

(1380 ) John is taller than the tallest of the group selected by f , which

comprises a majority of his classmates (f a choice function).

More detailed analysis are given below ((139) provides the two potential

readings of (137) and (140)–(142) analyse (138)). Besides being able to predict

the existing readings, the BUMP constraint in (123) will rule out the ones that

are intuitively unavailable.

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∃X[∗ classm(X) & many(X) & ∀x ∈ X :

Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]))

= John is taller than any classmate (as long as there are many).

b. ∃f : CH(f ) & John is taller than

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∀x ∈ f (λX. ∗ classm(X) & many(X)) :

Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]))

= John is taller than each of the many classmates selected by f

(f a choice function)

(140) than [1 [X most of his classmates are t1 tall]] =

[λD 0 . ∃X∃d[∗ classm(X)&d-many(X)&∀Y ∈ C[Y ≠ X&∗ classm(Y ) →

¬d-many(Y )] & ∀x ∈ X : Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]

intervals that contain the heights of a majority of John’s classmates

(141) than [1 [f most of his classmates are t1 tall]] =

[λD 0 . ∀x ∈ f (λX. ∃d[∗ classm(X) & d-many(X) & ∀Y ∈ C[Y ≠

10 An anonymous reviewer points out that this predicts that these NPs can have the same

specific readings we know from indefinites. I concur, but would like to point out that this

prediction arises from an analysis of these quantifiers as indefinites, not from the application

of that analysis to than-clauses. The empirical test cases include data like (i) below.

b. If most relatives of mine die, I will inherit a farm.

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

intervals that contain the heights of the majority of John’s class-

mates selected by f

(142) a. #John is taller than

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∃X∃d[∗ classm(X)&d-many(X)&∀Y ∈ C[Y ≠

X & ∗ classm(Y ) → ¬d-many(Y )] & ∀x ∈ X : Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]))

= John is taller than the tallest of any majority of his classmates.

= John is taller than any of his classmates.

b. ∃f : CH(f ) & John is taller than

Max> (m_inf([λD 0 . ∀x ∈ f (λX. ∃d[∗ classm(X) & d-many(X) &

∀Y ∈ C[Y ≠ X & ∗ classm(Y ) → ¬d-many(Y )]) : Height(x) ∈

D0 ]

= John is taller than the tallest of the majority of John’s class-

mates selected by f (f a choice function)

= For most x, x a classmate of John’s: John is taller than x.

To sum up: this subsection has analysed the available vs. unavailable readings

of indefinite NPs in than-clauses using a choice function mechanism plus a

constraint on unmotivated pluralization. The formulation of the BUMP in

(123) is offered as a first version of the constraint we need; what we want to

derive is that it is strange to say ‘John is taller than exactly three girls are’ if

we meant, and might as well have said ‘John is taller than any girl is’. Since

this seems eminently reasonable, I am hopeful that a good way of stating

the relevant constraint exists. Given this, the present section has extended

the selection analysis to apparent wide scope indefinite NPs of various kinds

(including numerals, many and most), using a pseudoscope mechanism

argued for extensively for indefinites independently of comparatives. The

comparative semantics itself remains simple.

The final kind of data that does not immediately fall out from the selection

analysis is represented by example (143) below: a than-clause containing a

universal quantifier in combination with a differential.

b. For every girl x: John is exactly 200 taller than x.

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Sigrid Beck

a problem. Heim’s analysis can derive the intuitive interpretation as shown

below.

(144) [[than every girl is tall] [5 [John is exactly 200 taller t5 ]]]

(1440 ) [than [1 [every girl [2 [[Pi t1 ] [3 [t2 is t3 tall]]]]]]] =

λD 0 . ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]

intervals into which the height of every girl falls

(145) (144) = [λD 0 . ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) ∈ D 0 ](λd. John is exactly 200 taller than d)

= for every girl x: John is exactly 200 taller than x

does not seem right for (143):

= John is exactly 200 taller than the tallest girl.

we assume that all the girls reach the same height. I call this an assumption

of equality among the individuals universally quantified over, EQ for short.

The EQ appears to speak in favor of a scope solution since it is entailed

by the truth conditions resulting from giving the universal wide scope over

the comparison. It is not entailed by the truth conditions according to

the selection analysis, although it is of course compatible with the truth

conditions in (146) that the girls all have the same height.

Sentence (143a) exemplifies a problem that arises when a than-clause

containing a universal quantifier is combined with a differential that in-

cludes exactly, at most or almost. A differential including at least does not

distinguish between the two sets of truth conditions.

b. For every girl x: John is no more than 200 taller than x

c. #John is no more than 200 taller than the tallest girl.

(148) a. John is at least 200 taller than every girl is.

b. For every girl x: John is at least 200 taller than x

c. John is at least 200 taller than the tallest girl.

exactly/at most-type differential, because, while it gives rise to the usual

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

cature can be canceled. If we suppose the implicature to be present, the

unmodified differential is parallel to exactly.

b. Implicature: John is no more than 200 taller than every girl is.

c. John is 200 taller than every girl is, perhaps more.

To sum up the picture so far, differentials with exactly and at most, and

perhaps simple differentials, seem to be problematic for the selection analysis

as opposed to the scope analysis.

However, there is more to say about this issue empirically and theoreti-

cally. Beginning with the theoretical side, note that the interpretation of the

matrix clause in (144) was simplified in terms of not giving the differential

quantifier exactly 200 independent scope.11 Data like (150) show that such

expressions do take scope, however:

(151) exactly 60 = λD. max(D) = 60

(1500 ) a. max(λd. ∃w[wAcc@& you are d-tall in w]) = 60

The largest permitted height for you is 60 .

b. ∃w[wAcc@ & max(λd. you are d-tall in w) = 60 ]

It is permitted that you be exactly 60 tall.

Hence, in addition to (a more elaborate version of) (144) above, the LF and

interpretation in (152) become possible. For the Pi theory, this leads to

availability of the analysis in (153).

(152) [[exactly 200 ] [4 [[than every girl is tall] [5 [John is t4 taller t5 ]]]]]

(1440 ) [than [1 [every girl [2 [[Pi t1 ] [3 [t2 is t3 tall]]]]]]] = λD 0 . ∀x[girl(x) →

Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]

intervals into which the height of every girl falls

(153) (152) = [exactly 200 ](λd0 . [λD 0 . ∀x[girl(x) → Height(x) ∈ D 0 ]

(λd. John is d0 taller than d)

= [exactly 200 ](λd0 . for every girl x: John is d0 taller than x)

= max(λd0 . for every girl x: John is d0 taller than x) = 200

‘The largest amount that John is taller than every girl is 200 .’

11 Thanks to Danny Fox for drawing my attention to this point.

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Sigrid Beck

Note that this LF no longer predicts all the girls to have the same height. It

says that John is exactly 200 taller than the tallest girl — just like the selection

analysis. It is thus not clear that the predictions of the scope analysis are

really different from, and superior to, the selection analysis.

Next, let’s take a closer look at the data. Above, we identified as a problem

that EQ is not predicted, the assumption that all individuals universally

quantified over have the same height (or whatever the gradable predicate

measures). However, the data are quite difficult. While I agree with the

perception in the literature that in (143a) the EQ is plausible, it is clear that it

does not always arise. Below are some examples where it doesn’t; (154)–(156)

are collected from the internet.12 The reader can convince her/himself that

further relevant data can easily be found. The difficulty in determining the

interpretation of data with nominal universal quantifiers is related to the

point mentioned in Section 2 about differentials and intensional verbs. I

mention in (1560 ) a suggestive example also collected from the web.

(154) Aden had the camera for $100 less than everyone else in town was

charging.

(155) WOW! Almost 4 seconds faster than everyone else, and a 9 second

gap on Lance.

(156) Jones was almost an inch taller than the both of them. (the both

of them = John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Jones = Tom Jones.

The author thinks that Jones was 50 1100 and that Paul McCartney was

about 50 1000 . John Lennon is reported to be shorter than McCartney

by about an inch.)

(1560 ) I finished 30 seconds faster than I expected. [. . . ] I know my 300

yard time more accurately now.

(the continuation suggests that the speaker’s expectation was a

range rather than a precise point in time.)

relevant ‘point’ provided by the than-clause.13 The differential measures the

12 A naive Google search has not unearthed a clearly relevant example with an exactly-

differential.

13 A different type of example illustrated below is difficult for both a scope and a selection

analysis. I find it hard to decide what such examples mean precisely. It seems plausible to

me that we select some kind of ‘point’ from the meaning of the than-clause, but not in the

way described in the text.

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

distance between that and the main clause degree. This is demonstrated for

(155) below.

scope)

b. (Z was) almost 4 seconds faster than Max> (m_inf(λD 0 . for all x ≠

Z : Speed(x) ∈ D 0 ))

= Z was almost 4 seconds faster than the next fastest person.

(selection Max> )

We face the task of figuring out what distinguishes (143) from (154)–(156),

i.e. why EQ arises in some data but not all. I would like to ask this question

in terms of how the selection analysis might predict not only (154)–(156),

but also (143). To this effect, let’s take a closer look at the combination of a

differential with a comparative.

Note that we understand a claim like (157a) relative to a plausible level of

granularity. For us to judge (157a) to be true, it is in most contexts sufficient

to be precise up to the level of a few millimeters. Suppose on the other hand

that (157b) is about a sensitive piece of machinery. A one millimeter margin

could very well not be acceptable. This means that what we call John’s height,

or that rod’s length, is actually somewhat fuzzy: it is a ‘blob’ or an interval

on the relevant scale whose size depends on context. The sensitivity to a

level of precision is not represented in the standard truth conditions of the

two examples given in (1570 ).

b. This rod is exactly 2 cm longer than that rod is.

(1570 ) a. Height(Mary) = Height(John) + 2 cm

b. Length(this rod) = Length(that rod) + 2 cm

To capture this, I follow Krifka (2007) in assuming that a scale can be divided

into different units. A unit on the scale then has to be identified that can

count as a ‘point’ at the contextually relevant level of granularity. Which

(i) a. Ben was almost a year older than everyone else in his class (because he had just

missed the deadline for the previous school year).

b. #For all x ≠ Ben: Ben was almost a year older than x.

c. #Ben was almost a year older than the next oldest in his class.

d. ?The others’ ages center around a point almost a year younger than Ben.

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Sigrid Beck

example could then refer to a very short or a somewhat larger stretch of the

scale, depending on the relevant standard of precision/unit size. I talk about

unit size as granularity.

(158) . . . _ _ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _/

1.80 m

... ...

5 cm 5 cm

... ...

... 2 cm

2 cm

...

1 cm 1 cm

entity into its contextually relevant parts, and apply it to scales in (159).

Covers provide the relevant granularity.

(159) Let hS, >i be a scale. Then Cov is a cover of S if Cov is a set of

subsets of S such that each d in S is in some set in Cov, each set in

Cov is contiguous and no two sets in Cov overlap. Assume Cov to

be the set of intervals that are of the contextually relevant size.

I furthermore revise the definition of an end “point” from (160) to (161) ((161b)

is the informal version, (161c) the more precise version employing covers).

Note that the distinction between points and intervals dissolves under this

view because what we usually call a point is an interval on the scale whose

size depends on context.

= the end point of the interval that extends furthest

b. Let S be a set ordered by R. Then maxR (S) = ιs[s ∈ S & ∀s 0 ∈

S[sRs 0 ]]

(161) a. Max> (phhd,ti,ti ) := end> (max> (p))

= the end ‘blob’ of the interval that extends furthest

b. end> (D) := ιd. d ⊆ D & ¬∃d0 [d0 ⊆ D & d0 > d] & d counts as a

point at the relevant level of granularity

c. Let Cov be the set of intervals that are of the contextually relevant

size.

end>,Cov (D) := ιd. d ⊆ D & d ∈ Cov &

¬∃d0 [d0 ⊆ D & d ≠ d0 & d0 ∈ Cov &d0 > d]

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

Supposing that we talk about what we roughly call 1.80 m, the meanings of

our two than-clauses could (depending on context, i.e. the relevant cover)

come out as in (162). It is thus in the nature of scales that they have a

part/whole structure whose units are determined in a context dependent

manner.

b. Max>,Cov2 (than that rod is long) = [1.7998–1.8002] (a 0.4 mm

unit)

differential measures the distance from the “point” referred to in the matrix

to the “point” referred to in the than-clause, “point” being determined by

the relevant unit size. Note that a plausible granularity for the than-clause

has to match the granularity level suggested by the differential. If the two

do not match, an odd sentence results. I call this a granularity clash. In the

example below, we know that it is impossible to determine to the second the

amount of time that it took John to learn French. The than-clause comes

inherently with a coarse granularity, which clashes with the granularity of

the differential in (163b).

b. ?Mary learned arithmetic faster than John learned French by 7

minutes 23 seconds.

c. Mary learned arithmetic faster than John learned French by

several months.

(164a), it must at least be given that the cover of the relevant interval that

the than-clause provides (via informativity) furnishes units that are smaller

than the differential; i.e. (164b) is a requirement for the comparative to make

sense. If that is the case, then the unit picked out as a “point” by Max>

will also be smaller than the differential (164c). The comparative can then

measure the gap between the main clause degree and the maximum of the

than-clause with the differential ((164d)). If the maximum itself is larger, this

will be impossible. In our example, suppose that we can with exceptional

precision determine to the day how long it took Mary to learn arithmetic

and John to learn French. We cannot reasonably measure the gap between

two days in terms of the differential ‘7 minutes 23 seconds’. The level of

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Sigrid Beck

granularity relevant for the than-clause has to make sense in relation to the

differential.

b. for all U ∈ Cov: U < Diff

c. Since Max>,Cov (D) ∈ Cov : Max>,Cov (D) < Diff

d. Max>,Cov (Main Clause) = Diff + Max>,Cov (D)

The reasoning works out given that the cover, and therefore the unit that

counts as ‘maximal point’, is determined locally, i.e. than-clause internally,

independently of the differential which will then either fit or clash.14

I think that granularity offers an explanation for the interpretive effect I

call EQ. Consider the situation depicted below for (165). If we have no further

information regarding the situation, the girls’ sizes can be far apart. This

would indicate a large interval. The idea is that the semantics of the than-

clause itself indicates possible Covers. There is then a danger that we have a

coarse-grained cover. A reasonable division of x1 –x5 would be

into relatively long units, hence Max> is long. This would be incompatible

with the differential — a granularity clash. That is, a sentence in which the

than-clause indicates a real spread (e.g. because of a universal quantifier)

brings with it the danger of a granularity mismatch with a differential.

(166) _ _ _• _ _ _• _ _ _ _ _ •_ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _• _ _ _ _ _• _ _ _ _/

x1 x2 x3 x4 x5 J

m_inf((than) every girl is tall) = { x1 –x5 }

14 A similar effect can be observed with Covers in the plural domain in examples like (i) below.

b. The Smiths and the Johnsons love their child.

Suppose we are talking about Angelina and Reginald Johnson and Mary and John Smith.

Then the two subjects in (ia) and (ib) refer to the same group, but make different covers

salient (Schwarzschild 1996). By virtue of the cover suggested by the subject, (ia) tends to be

understood as ‘the women love their child and the men love their child’, which is unexpected.

(ia) amounts to ‘the Smiths love their child and the Johnsons love their child’, which is more

expected. The point is that the subject group autonomously makes salient a cover, whether

this leads to a plausible interpretation of the whole or not.

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

The Cover indicated by the than-clause may agree with the differential

only under an additional assumption of closeness of the individual “points”

covered by the than-clause interval. My suggestion is that if a potential

granularity clash could only be avoided under an additional assumption of

closeness, one tends to assume equality and a default Cover of the than-

clause interval D in terms of the singleton set {D}. This is the EQ. In short,

without an informative context, there is a danger of a granularity clash. The

danger is avoided by the EQ. The EQ would under this analysis be an extra

assumptions speakers make in order to ensure that a sentence is meaningful.

(Note that the EQ is not the weakest assumption one could make to ensure

that; perhaps it is the simplest assumption.)

The data above for which the selection analysis automatically makes

good predictions with Max> , (154)–(156), are such that we have a rather clear

expectation about the kind of interval denoted by the than-clause — the range

within which the individual degrees fall is fixed. The context is rich, and

no problems with granularity arise. Thus a genuine Max> interpretation (i.e.

one in which we pick out the maximum from a genuine spread) is possible

without further assumptions. This distinguishes those data from our original

example (165). I suggest that danger of a granularity clash leads to EQ: to

supposing that the ‘points’ that are in danger of being spread over too large

an interval in fact collapse into one. We expect that it should depend on

the amount of information available on the interval covered by the than-

clause whether we get an EQ interpretation or a genuine Max> interpretation.

Additional information to the effect that the points are not the same, but

close enough together for the purposes of the differential, may make the EQ

unnecessary and thus make a genuine Max> interpretation possible for our

EQ data. This appears to me to be correct:

growth conditions of seedlings. In particular, we test different

fertilizing agents (ViagraFlor, Dung™, ComposFix and GuanoPlus)

and their effect on how fast our seedlings grow. After two weeks, it

is reported that:

(168) The ComposFix seedlings are exactly 200 taller than all the others.

(Max> possible)

I should be able to take the same than-clauses that occured in Max> examples

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Sigrid Beck

and place them into a less fortunate context, and trigger EQ. Again, this

seems the right prediction.

(169) a. This pot dries out exactly 40 min faster than all the others.

(EQ likely)

b. This T-Shirt dries exactly 20 min faster than all the others.

(EQ likely)

We see that minimal pairs can be found that have essentially the same

comparative (differential plus comparative adjective plus than-clause) but

differ as to informativity of background context regarding the than-clause

interval. An uninformative context makes us assume that the interval is

point-like, so that Max> will be well defined and suitable — EQ. If we have

enough background information to be sure that the Max> unit in the than-

clause interval is suitable, we do not panic, make no extra assumptions, and

can get a genuine Max> interpretation as expected.

Things are different with an existential quantifier. Consider (170) against

the same background as before. The minimal than-clause intervals will be the

heights of the individual girls. Max> will be well defined and suitable without

any additional assumptions, and will make this a comparison between John’s

height and the height of the tallest girl, as desired.

Max> (m_inf((than) any girl is tall))

(171) _ _ _• _ _ _• _ _ _ _ _ •_ _ _ •_ _ _ _ _ _• _ _ _ _ _• _ _ _ _/

x1 x2 x3 x4 x5 J

on differential comparatives. It depends on context whether we get an EQ

interpretation or a genuine Max> interpretation, and the selection strategy

can explain this. I will not investiate here what a scope strategy could say

about the data.

A more general remark: At this point in the analysis, a pragmatic element

has entered the picture. The ‘glue’ I have been talking about so far is gen-

uinely semantic and seems fully determined (as far as I can see) given the

requirement of interpretability. But scales (following the insights represented

by Krifka’s work) require reference to context and include a pragmatic ele-

ment in the shape of the cover. In addition to the maximality/informativity

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

of the scale to interpret a particular example. Properties of the cover become

relevant in particular in the presence of differentials, and speakers may be

lead to make extra assumptions (EQ). The fuzzy nature of the data, in my

opinion, speaks in favour of the idea that some kind of pragmatic glue is

required to make things work out. Depending on the context, speakers may

or may not have an easy time figuring out what the necessary glue is. That

said, a remaining caveat is a more thorough empirical understanding of the

data with differentials.

4.1 Summary

an analysis of quantifiers in than-clauses in which the quantifier is interpreted

inside the than-clause. A shift from degrees to intervals of degrees makes

this possible. Despite appearances, there is no scope interaction between

quantifier and shifter or quantifier and comparison operator. Instead, there

is uniformly selection of a point from the subordinate clause interval. The

analysis takes from Schwarzschild & Wilkinson the step to intervals. It shares

with Heim that comparison is ultimately reduced to comparison of points.

Intervals are not directly compared. In contrast to Heim and the subsequent

NOT-theory, apparent scope effects like the interpretation of have to–type

modals and exactly n NPs have been explained away via recourse to alternative

interpretational mechanisms, which have been argued for independently of

than-clauses (in these two examples: exhaustification and an alternative

semantics for exactly-numerals). My strategy is motivated by the lack of clear

scope interaction in than-clauses.

One feature of the proposal is that the semantics of the comparative

operator is very simple. It is the same semantics that one needs for data like

(172a), namely one in which the first argument of the comparative operator is

a degree, (172c). Maximality is still used in clausal comparatives like the ones

we have discussed, but it is independent of the comparative operator.

b. [[-er [than 1.70 m]] [2 [John is t2 tall]]]

c. -er = λd1 . λd2 . d2 > d1

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Sigrid Beck

than Schwarzschild & Wilkinson’s. The complexity that is no doubt there

in the present analysis consists in the assumption that general interpretive

strategies like informativity and maximality are involved (plus in indepen-

dent complications like the availability of specific readings for indefinites

and the like). Also, the semantics is no longer completely determined by

compositional semantics. Data with differentials could only be analysed by

enriching the classical semantics with pragmatic notions (covers, contextual

background). However, this aspect of the proposal is supported by contextual

variability of the judgements and thus has to be part of a successful analysis.

In order to ultimately evaluate the success of my proposals, the whole

approach needs to also be extended to adverbials. I will not attempt to do so

now. Other considerations concern a more detailed analysis of the various

modals (including might) and an investigation of the interaction of several

scope bearing elements inside a than-clause. I give some representative data

below and acknowledge the need for further work on the subject (compare

Schwarzschild & Wilkinson 2002, Heim 2006b, Schwarzschild 2008). Finally, I

admit that I have no analysis for Sauerland’s (2008) example (174), for which

he provides a solution in terms of Heim’s theory.

b. It is hotter today than it might be tomorrow.

c. Sveta solved this problem faster than someone else could have.

(174) Ekaterina is an odd number of centimeters taller than each of her

teammates.

analysis to answer: where do the intervals come from? In Section 3 I made

the assumption that basic adjective meanings already contained intervals:

I could alternatively have assumed that the operator Pi from Heim 2006b

shifts the standard adjective meaning to (175).

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

(177) a. tall = [λd. λx. Height(x) ≤ d]

b. Pi = [λD. λP . max(P ) ∈ D]

c. [λD. Pi(D)(tall(x))] = [λD. Height(x) ∈ D]

Since Pi on the analysis pursued here always takes scope immediately next to

the adjective, this would have served no particular purpose and I simplified

to (175). But a problem for assuming (175) as the basic meaning of a gradable

adjective is that it is very weak. This creates problems for example for the

negation theory of antonymy (compare e.g. Heim 2006a). (178a) analyses

the negative polar adjective short as the negation of tall. I fail to be able to

imagine how a parallel strategy for the interval based meaning (178b) could

be successful.

b. short = λD. λx. Height(x) 6∈ D

So if the intervals do not come into the semantics via a motivated independent

(since mobile) operator Pi, and nor are they plausibly basic, how do they come

in? It would be attractive to say that intervals enter the semantics because,

that is, if and only if, they are needed. That is what I would like to think, and

(175) really was a simplification for the sake of uniformity that I think of as

preliminary.

An idea for how to bring intervals into the semantics when needed that is

due to Heim (2009) is given below. We begin by observing that a relation can

be expressed between a plurality and a part of a scale — a degree ‘blob’.

Our children are that tall.

b. (Bill’s GPA is 3.75.)

Sam’s grades are that good, too.

The example (180a) can be represented as in (180b) with the meaning in (180c)

in mind for the relation between the two objects of drink — a cumulative

interpretation (see e.g. Beck & Sauerland 2000 and all the earlier work cited

there that they rely on).

b. ∗ ∗ drank(M)(C)

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Sigrid Beck

c. ∀x ≤ C : ∃y ≤ M : drank(y)(x)&∀y ≤ M : ∃x ≤ C : drank(y)(x)

the milk were drunk by one of the children.

b. ∗ ∗ tall(D)(C)

c. ∀x ≤ C : ∃d ≤ D : tall(d)(x) & ∀d ≤ D : ∃x ≤ C : tall(d)(x)

All the children’s heights fall into D, and all parts of D contain

the height of a child.

plural, and it yields the set of intervals that we need according to the analysis

in Section 3. Comparison will be with the maximum point in that set and the

sentence is predicted to mean that our children are shorter than John.

b. λD. ∗ ∗ tall(D)(C)

c. λD. ∀x ≤ C : ∃d ≤ D : tall(d)(x)&∀d ≤ D : ∃x ≤ C : tall(d)(x)

intervals that contain the heights of all our children (and nothing

else)

Note that the notion of degree ‘blobs’ that have a part/whole structure is

anticipated by the reference to covers in Section 3. A cover provides us

with the relevant parts of the degree scale. We are consistently assuming a

mass like structure of the degree scale. To make the connection clear, (1820 )

provides a more complete formalisation of (180a) which includes covers

(compare Beck 2001 for this kind of use for covers).

b. λD. ∀x[x ≤ C & x ∈ Cov → ∃d[d ≤ D & d ∈ Cov & tall(d)(x)]] &

∀d[d ≤ D & d ∈ Cov → ∃x[x ≤ C & x ∈ Cov & tall(d)(x)]]

(suppose that the relevant parts of ‘the children’ are the indi-

vidual children, and that the relevant parts of the cover are the

units according to granularity)

the meaning of a than-clause via plural predication. What would we need

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

to do in order for this idea to apply to the range of data examined in this

paper? I briefly discuss three issues for which this change in perspective is

reelvant: (i) universal quantifiers, (ii) singular quantifiers, and (iii) maximal

informativity.

First, regarding universal quantifiers: The introduction of intervals analo-

gously to (182) would have to happen with universal quantifiers of various

kinds, in particular universal nominals and intensional verbs (cf. our two

representative examples every girl and predict). Regarding intensional verbs,

there is a proposal by Bošković & Gajewski (2008) that instead of universal

quantification over worlds (183a) they (or at least some of them) involve sum

formation (183b).

b. believex = max(λW . W ∈ ∗BELx )

sional verb (in the simpler version without covers):

b. λD.[∗∗λw.λd. John is d-tall in w](max(λW .W ∈ ∗BELyou ))(D)

c. λD.∀w ≤ max(λW .W ∈ ∗BELyou ) : ∃d ≤ D : tall(w)(d)(John)&

∀d ≤ D : ∃w ≤ max(λW .W ∈ ∗BELyou ) : tall(w)(d)(John)

intervals that contain John’s height in all your belief worlds (and

nothing else)

introduce a plurality, although this is not always easily possible. Perhaps (185)

involves a reinterpretation as a plural definite NP. The same reinterpretation

would be responsible for the interpretation of the than-clause in (186) in

case the girls are of varying heights. This might make sense of my above-

mentioned intuition that a definite plural is more acceptable than a universal

NP.

b. ?Every student gathered in the hallway.

(186) a. John is taller than every girl is.

b. ‘every girl’ → G (the plurality of girls)

c. λD.∗∗ tall(D)(G)

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Sigrid Beck

h i

d. λD. ∀x ≤ G : ∃d ≤ D : tall(d)(x)

h i

& ∀d ≤ D : ∃x ≤ G : tall(d)(x)

intervals that contain the heights of all the girls (and nothing

else)

Thus it can be argued that a plural analysis of intervals can capture these

data15 The discussion from Section 3 is (almost — see below) unchanged; what

changes is what happens below the level of AP, so to speak (the predication ‘x

is d-tall’): what we assumed to be basic in (175) is now compositionally derived

via pluralization mechanisms. Next, let’s reconsider data with singular

quantificational elements:

b. *John is taller than no girl is.

(1870 ) a. John is taller

h than some girls are. i

b. λD. ∃X : ∀x ≤ X : ∃d ≤ D : tall(d)(x)

h i

& ∀d ≤ D : ∃x ≤ X : tall(d)(x)

h i

c. λD. ∀x ≤ f (∗ girl) : ∃d ≤ D : tall(d)(x)

h i

& ∀d ≤ D : ∃x ≤ f (∗ girl). tall(d)(x)

indefinites and negative quantifiers. Remember from Section 3.1 that in these

cases, we got rid of the intervals immediately anyway (maximal informativity

reduced the contribution of the than-clause to the set of individual heights).

Now, we could just revert to the classical analysis for those data. This

is not an unwelcome result, since the classical analysis offers a successful

solution for them. Pluralization as the trigger for the introduction of intervals

will continue to play a role for plural indefinites (see example (1870 )); the

discussion in Section 3.3 is thus also in important respects unchanged.

Finally, we need to think once more about the role of maximal infor-

mativity. Plural semantics keeps intervals small. The truth conditions of

cumulation are such that the pluralised relation holds between the plurality

and the smallest interval that covers all the individuals in the plurality (cf.

the second conjunct in (181c) and the following analyses). This may make

15 I am not sure at this point what to say about the have to–type modals. Perhaps (as non-neg-

raising verbs) they do not have a plural analysis. We then revert to the classical analysis.

If they do have a plural semantics, the story in Section 3.1 is maintained. The first version

relates the behavior of a modal to neg-raising, the second to SMC use.

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

seen as a welcome result.

The attraction of this approach is, as said above, that intervals enter

the picture only when there is a real need for them. The idea is entirely

compatible with the selection analysis and in my view very desirable. Why

did I not set out in this fashion in Section 3? I am not quite confident enough

of the story in (185), (186), and too many details remain to be worked out,

plus the data need to be examined more carefully. As things stand, readers

sceptical of the ideas sketched in this subsection may take Section 3 as it is,

while others have the beginnings of an analysis of how and why intervals

come into play at all.

4.3 Outlook

Let’s take a step back and think about what an analysis of quantifiers in

than-clauses in terms of selection achieves — beyond the empirical coverage

of the mostly well-known set of data that I have been concerned with above.

Compared to its theoretical competitors, it primarily removes quantifiers

in than-clauses from the realm of scope interaction phenomena. For example,

the interpretive behaviour of quantifiers in than-clauses cannot be seen as

an instance of the Heim/Kennedy generalization (Kennedy 1997; Heim 2001).

The analysis I’ve given in Section 3 violates this generalization.

(189) a. than [1 [every girl is t1 tall]]

b. λD. for every girl x : Height(x) ∈ D

fiers in the matrix clause of comparatives. Suppose that the behaviour of

quantifiers in the matrix clause relative to degree operators is regulated by

a scope constraint deriving the Heim/Kennedy generalization. Then there

would be no theoretical connection between this and than-clause quantifiers.

We would accordingly expect empirical differences between quantifiers in

main clause vs. than-clause. On the other hand, if one were to extend the

requirement of finding a definite degree from the than-clause to the main

clause (a good way of ensuring applicability of the lexical entry in (172c),

note), a parallel analysis could still be pursued. (See once more Heim 2009

for a sketch of such an analysis.) There are some striking similarities be-

tween main clause and than-clause quantifiers that motivate such a step, in

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Sigrid Beck

that talks about the minimum requirement length of the paper, and neither

sentence in (191) does.

b. The paper is required to be less long than that.

(191) a. The paper is longer than it is supposed to be.

b. The paper is supposed to be less long than that.

here is it nicer than elsewhere

‘It is nicer here than it is elsewhere.’

b. ok: It is nicer here than it is in the most beautiful other place.

(193) a. Anderswo ist es weniger schön als hier.

elsewhere is it less nice than here

‘It is less nice elsewhere than it is here.’

b. ??The most beautiful other place is less nice than it is here.

(194) a. Sam war schneller als jemand anderes.

Sam was faster than someone other

‘Sam was faster than another person.’

b. ok: Sam was faster than the fastest other person.

(195) a. Jemand anderes war weniger schnell als Sam.

Someone other was less fast than Sam

‘Another person was less fast than Sam.’

b. ??The fastest other person was less fast than Sam.

worried about apparent differences. I would not wish to be committed at

present to claiming that quantifiers in the main clause behave in the same

way as quantifiers in the than-clause, or that they don’t, and will remain

neutral as to whether the analysis developed here should be extended to

cover matrix clause quantifiers as well.

Instead of making a connection to scope interaction phenomena, the

present analysis is based on a plural/mass-semantics related vagueness plus

semantic and pragmatic glue. It makes the interpretation of quantifiers in

than-clauses more of a coercion-like phenomenon. Perhaps the variable and

partly messy nature of the data can motivate the nature of the analysis.

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Quantifiers in than-clauses

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Chair of Descriptive and Theoretical Linguistics

Englisches Seminar

Universität Tübingen

Wilhelmstr. 50

72074 Tübingen

Germany

sigrid.beck@uni-tuebingen.de

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Semantics & Pragmatics Volume 3, Article 3: 1–41, 2010

doi: 10.3765/sp.3.3

Rick Nouwen

Utrecht University

Decision 2009-09-08 / Revised 2009-09-29 / Accepted 2009-10-14 / Final Version

Received 2009-10-15 / Published 2010-01-26

Abstract In this article, I show that there are two kinds of numeral modifiers:

(Class A) those that express the comparison of a certain cardinality with the

value expressed by the numeral and (Class B) those that express a bound

on a degree property. The goal is, first of all, to provide empirical evidence

for this claim and second to account for these data within a framework that

treats modified numerals as degree quantifiers.

1 Introduction

numeral and a comparative, as in more than 100. Following Hackl (2001),

I will refer to such expressions as comparative quantifiers. As (1) shows,

however, apart from modification by a comparative, numerals combine with

a striking diversity of expressions.

no more than 100, many more than 100 differential quantifiers

∗ I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Many thanks,

moreover, to S&P editors Kai von Fintel and, especially, David Beaver, for their painstaking

efforts to point out ways in which to improve the article. A concise presentation of the main

points of this article appeared under the same title in the proceedings of the thirteenth

Sinn und Bedeutung conference (Nouwen 2009). Earlier ideas on this subject were presented

at Semantics and Linguistic Theory 13 in Amherst (2008) and the Journées Sémantique et

Modélisation in Toulouse (2008). I am grateful to the audiences of these events for useful

discussion. Special thanks to Min Que and Luisa Meroni for some help with data. This work

was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO,

which I hereby gratefully acknowledge.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Non-

Commercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0).

R.W.F. Nouwen

100 or more/fewer/less disjunctive quantifiers

under/over 100, between 100 and 200 locative quantifiers

from/up to 100, from 100 to 200 directional quantifiers

minimally/maximally 100, 100 tops other

For a long time, there seemed to be agreement in the formal semantic lit-

erature that there was little to be gained from a thorough investigation of

these expressions. An especially dominant view, originating from generalised

quantifier theory (Barwise & Cooper 1981), was that there was not much more

to the semantics of such quantifiers than the expression of the numerical

relations >, <, ≤ and ≥. In the past decade, however, several studies have

shown that this is an overly simplistic assumption. Examples are Hackl 2001,

Krifka 1999 and Takahashi 2006 on comparative quantifiers, Nouwen 2008b

on negative comparative quantifiers, Solt 2007 on differential quantifiers,

Geurts & Nouwen 2007, Umbach 2006, Corblin 2007, Büring 2008 and Krifka

2007b on superlative quantifiers, Corver & Zwarts 2006 on locative quan-

tifiers and Nouwen 2008a on directional quantifiers.1 Such investigations

usually concern the specific quirks of a certain type of modified numeral.

While I believe that it is important to have a semantic analysis of modified

numerals on a case by case basis, I also believe that what is lacking from the

literature so far is a view of to what extent the various modified numerals in

(1) involve the same semantic structures. In this paper, I will attempt to reach

a generalisation along this line by claiming that there are two kinds of modi-

fied numerals: (A) those that relate the numeral to some specific cardinality

and (B) those that place a bound on the cardinality of some property. The

difference will be made clear below. The main example of (A) are comparative

quantifiers like more/fewer than 100. Most other kinds of modified numerals

fall in the second class.

I will start by making clear what distinguishes the two classes of modified

numerals by presenting a body of data that sets them apart. Then, in section

3, I introduce a well-founded decompositional treatment of comparative

quantifiers, proposed by Hackl (2001), which I take to represent the proper

treatment of class A modifiers. In section 4, I propose that class B modifiers

are operators that indicate maxima/minima. I will then account for the

distribution of these quantifiers by arguing that they are often blocked by

unmodified numerals, which are capable of expressing equivalent meanings.

1 See also Nouwen 2010b for an overview.

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Two kinds of modified numerals

B-type quantifiers with modal operators. In section 6, I provide some more

details on the empirical basis for the A/B distinction. Section 7 concludes.

assert extremely weak propositions. For instance, (2) is acceptable, even

though it expresses a rather under-informative truth.

This example contrasts strongly with the examples in (3), which are all

unacceptable. (Or, alternatively, one might have the intuition that they are

false).

b. #A hexagon has maximally 10 sides. B

c. #A hexagon has up to 10 sides. B

Why is this so? A naive theory might have it that (2) states that the number

of sides in a hexagon is strictly smaller than 11 (i.e. <11), and that the only

difference with (3) is that, there, it is stated that this number is smaller or

equal to 10 (i.e.≤ 10). Clearly, 6 is both < 11 and ≤ 10. So why are not both

kinds of examples under-informative but true? On the naive view, having at

most 10 sides is expected to be equivalent to having fewer than 11 sides. That

is, both these properties pick out objects with n ∈ {0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10}

sides. Semantically, no contrast is to be expected. Given this semantic

equivalence, a pragmatic explanation of the contrast between (2) and (3)

seems equally unlikely.2

Let us call quantifiers that are acceptable in such examples class A quan-

tifiers and those that are like (3) class B quantifiers. As the contrast between

(4) and (5) shows, the distinction is also visible with lower bound quantifiers.

2 A reviewer wondered whether the naive view could not be maintained if we assume that

there is a pragmatic effect associated to the fact that ≤ n includes the possibility of n while

< n excludes it. It is very much unclear what kind of effect that would be, however. One

could, for instance, base a pragmatic inference on the fact that, in (3a), the speaker seems to

signal the possibility that a hexagon has 10 sides by using at most 10. However, one could

equally argue that the same signal is given by the speaker of (2), simply by using fewer than

11 instead of fewer than 10.

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R.W.F. Nouwen

That is, (4) is under-informative, yet true and acceptable, while the examples

in (5) are unacceptable/false.

(5) #A hexagon has {at least / minimally} 3 sides. B

pressions is that such quantifiers are incapable of expressing relations to

definite amounts. Class A expressions, on the other hand, excel at doing so.

Imagine, for instance, that we are talking about my new laptop and that we

are concerned with how much internal memory it has. Say that it has 1GB of

memory (and that I know that it has so much memory.) I can then assert (6)

in a context where you, for instance, just told me that your laptop has 2GB of

memory.

Or, if your computer has a mere 512MB of memory, I can boast that:

In these examples, I am comparing the definite amount of 1GB, i.e. the precise

amount of memory I know my laptop has, to some given contrasting amount

2GB (512MB) by means of less than (more than). This is something class A

quantifiers can do very well, but something that is unavailable for class B

modified numerals:

a. . . . and it is {#at most / #maximally / #up to} 2GB.

b. . . . and it is {#at least / #minimally} 512MB.

discussion’ is not a definite amount, but rather a range of amounts, as in (9).

(9) a. Computers of this kind have {at most / maximally / up to} 2GB of

memory.

b. Computers of this kind have {at least / minimally} 512MB of mem-

ory.

3:4

Two kinds of modified numerals

rather than to a single specific cardinality.3 This intuition is supported by

(10).

We normally interpret (10) to indicate that the speaker does not know how

many people Jasper invited. That is, it is unacceptable for a speaker to utter

(10) if s/he has a definite amount in mind, which is why the addition of 43, to

be precise in (11) is infelicitous.4

By assuming that the speaker does not know the exact amount, (10) is

interpreted as being about the range of values possible from the speaker’s

perspective. The speaker thus states that there is a bound on that range.

The same intuition occurs if we substitute maximally 50 by any other class B

quantifier.

In sum, I showed that the landscape of modified numerals can be divided

into two separate classes of expressions. What distinguishes class B quanti-

fiers from other modified numerals is that they are incompatible with definite

amounts and are always interpreted with respect to a range of values. Below,

I will present a semantics of class B expressions that makes this intuition

3 In his comments on this article, David Beaver pointed out examples like (i), where the number

appears to be a variable quantified over.

Although I will not attempt a compositional analysis of cases like (i), such examples do

appear to support the main intuition that class B quantifiers express relations between

amounts and ranges. An example like (i) states that 50 is the maximum of the range formed

by the different number of people present at different times. This is different from (ii),

which states that at any time the number of people present did not exceed 50. (This is true,

for instance, in case from start to finish there were always 20 people present.) So while (i)

expresses a maximum on a range of values created by quantification, (ii) quantifies over

different times and compares the number of people present at that time with 50.

(ii) There were fewer than 50 people there at any one time.

(i) Jasper invited fewer than 50 people to his party. 43, to be precise.

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R.W.F. Nouwen

precise. Before I can do so, however, I will need to discuss the semantics of

A-type numeral modifiers.

as developed in Hackl 2001. I will assume that this represents the proper

treatment of class A numeral modifiers. I also extend the framework slightly

by adding a way to account for the ambiguity of non-modified numerals.

class A quantifiers correspond to the well-known generalised quantifier-style

determiner denotations such as the ones in (12).5

(12) more than 10 = λP .λQ. ∃x[#x > 10 & P (x) & Q(x)]

fewer than 10 = λP .λQ.¬∃x[#x ≥ 10 & P (x) & Q(x)]

In the past decade it has become clear that it is important to have a closer

look at these modified numerals (Krifka 1999; Hackl 2001). In what follows,

I will assume the following semantics of fewer than, which is based on the

arguments in Hackl 2001.

fewer than 10 = λM. maxn (M(n)) < 10

The workings of this definition will become clear below, but one of the main

motivations for an analysis along this line can be pointed out immediately.

The semantics in (13) is simply that of a comparative construction, where car-

dinalities are seen as a special kind of degrees. That is, like the comparative,

it involves a degree predicate M and a maximality operator that applies to

5 In a set-theoretic approach (12) would correspond to the perhaps more familiar (i). I discuss

(12) rather than (i) since, in what follows, I will assume a framework that makes use of

sum individuals. It is easy to see that, within their own respective frameworks, (12) and (i)

ultimately yield the same truth-conditions.

fewer than 10 = λX.λY .|X ∩ Y | < 10

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Two kinds of modified numerals

this predicate (Heim 2000). In other words, (13) is completely parallel to other

comparatives, like (14). While in (13), M is a predicate like being a number n

such that Jasper invited n people to his party, in (14) M could, for instance,

be filled in with something like being a degree d such that Jasper is tall to

degree d.

contain a silent counting quantifier many:

(16) 10 sushis [ DP [ 10 many ] sushis ]

of the silent quantifier many (of type hd, hhe, ti, hhe, ti, tiii, of generalised

quantifier-style determiners parameterised for degrees). By applying [ 10

many ] to the noun (phrase), the standard generalised quantifier denotation

of 10 sushis is derived: λQ.∃x[#x = 10 & sushi(x) & Q(x)]. The structure

of a DP containing a modified numeral does not differ essentially. Modified

numerals are also the argument of a counting quantifier, as illustrated in (17).

to be degrees. Fewer than 10, however, denotes a degree quantifier, not a

degree constant. Thus, to avoid a type clash, the modified numeral in (17) has

to move, leaving a degree trace and creating a degree property.

[ [fewer than 10] [ λn [ Jasper ate [ [ n many ] sushis ] ] ] ]

This leads to the following interpretation, which results in the desired simple

truth-conditions.

(19) [λM.maxn (M(n)) < 10] ( λn.∃x[#x = n & sushi(x) & ate(j, x)])

=β

maxn (∃x[#x = n & sushi(x) & ate(j, x)]) < 10

This might seem like a rather elaborate way of deriving the truth-conditions

for such simple sentences. Using (12), we would have derived as truth-

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R.W.F. Nouwen

conditions ¬∃x[#x ≥ 10 & sushi(x) & ate(j, x)], which is equivalent to (19),

but which does not require resorting to (moving) degree quantifiers and

silent counting quantifiers. Importantly, however, Hackl’s theory makes some

crucial predictions which are not made by theories assuming a semantics as

in (12).

If, like degree operators, modified numeral operators can take scope,

we expect to find scope alternations that resemble those found with degree

operators (Heim 2000). As Hackl observed, this prediction is borne out. For

reasons explained in Heim 2000, structural ambiguity arising from degree

quantifiers and intensional operators like modals is only visible with non-

upward entailing quantifiers, which is why all the following examples are

with upper-bounded modified numerals.

The example in (20), for instance is ambiguous, with (20a) and (20b) as its

two readings.

(20) (Bill has to read 6 books.) John is required to read fewer than 6 books.

b. ‘The minimal number of books John should read is fewer than 6’

One of the readings of (20) states that there is an upper bound on what John

is allowed to read. The more natural interpretation, however, is a minimality

reading, which is about the minimal number of books John is required to

read. (That is, (20) would, for instance, be true if John meets the requirements

as soon as he reads 3 or more books.)

Following Heim (2000), Hackl analyses this ambiguity as resulting from

alternative scope orderings of the modal and the comparative quantifier. The

upper bound reading, (20a), corresponds to a logical form where the modal

takes wide scope. The minimality reading involves the maximality operator

intrinsic to the comparative construction taking wide scope over the modal

(Heim 2000).

[require [ [fewer than 6] [ λn [John read n-many books] ] ] ]

(22) maxn (∃x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]) < 6

[ [fewer than 6] [ λn [ require [John read n-many books] ] ] ]

two readings of (23) are an upper bound interpretation as well as a reading

3:8

Two kinds of modified numerals

which is very weak, stating simply that values below the numeral are within

what is permitted, without stating anything about the permissions for higher

values. (That is, the reading intended in (23b) is, for instance, verified by a

situation where there are no restrictions whatsoever on what John is allowed

to read. Clearly, (23a) would be false in such a situation.)

a. ‘John shouldn’t bring more than 9 friends’

b. ‘It’s OK if John brings 9 or fewer friends (and it might also be OK

if he brings more)’

As before, these readings can be predicted to exist on the basis of the relative

scope of modal and comparative quantifiers.

[ [fewer than 6] [ λn [ allow [John invite n-many friends] ] ] ]

(25) ♦[maxn (∃x[#x = n & friend(x) & bring(j, x)]) < 6]

[ allow [ [fewer than 6] [ λn [John invite n-many friends] ] ] ]

The reader may check that Hackl’s predicted readings in (24) and (25) are

indeed the attested ones.

ative quantifiers as comparative constructions. The question now is whether

class B quantifiers should be given a similar treatment. In other words, will

the semantics in (26) do?

since the class B quantifiers are not comparative constructions. Yet, cases

like maximally 10 suggest that the crucial ingredient of the semantics is the

same, namely a maximality operator. The unsuitability of the analysis in (26)

becomes immediately apparent, however, if we investigate examples with

class B modified numerals embedded under an existential modal: these turn

out not to be ambiguous (cf. Geurts & Nouwen 2007). Class B modifiers like

maximally, up to and at most always yield an upper bound on what is allowed

and resist the weaker reading that was found with comparative modifiers, as

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R.W.F. Nouwen

But more is fine too.

(28) John is allowed to bring {up to / at most / maximally} 10 friends.

#But more is fine too.

quantifiers and modals is that existential modals interfere with the inferences

about speaker knowledge that we found for simple sentences. Above, I

observed that (29) licenses the inference that the speaker does not know

how many friends Jasper invited. In contrast, (30) does not license any such

inference; it is compatible with the speaker knowing exactly what is and what

is not allowed.

(30) Jasper is allowed to invite maximally 50 friends.

These observations add to the data separating class A from class B quanti-

fiers. Summarising, the distinctions are then as follows. First of all, class B

quantifiers, but not class A quantifiers, resist definite amounts, except when

embedded under an existential modal. Second, class B quantifiers, but not

class A quantifiers, resist weak readings when embedded under an existential

modal.

In the next section I will argue that the peculiarities of class B quantifiers

can be explained if we assume that they are quite simply maxima and minima

indicators. Basically, what I propose is that the semantics of maximally

(minimally) is simply the operator maxd (mind ). This might be perceived as

stating the obvious. What is not obvious, however, is how such a proposal

accounts for the difference between class A and class B quantifiers. I will

argue that the limited distribution of class B modifiers is due to the fact that

they give rise to readings that are in competition with readings available

for non-modified structures. I will show that, in many circumstances, the

application of a class B modifier to a numeral yields an interpretation which

is equivalent to one that was already available for the bare numeral. Before I

can explain the proposal in detail, I therefore need to include an account of

bare numerals in the framework.

3:10

Two kinds of modified numerals

numerals. An important part in that framework is played by the counting

quantifier many. I will re-name this operator many1 , for, in what follows, I

assume that for any numeral there are two counting quantifiers available.

These two options are to account for the two meanings of numerals that

may be observed: on the one hand the existential / weak / lower-bounded

meaning and, on the other hand, the doubly bound / strong meaning. An

example like (31), for instance, is ambiguous between (31a) and (31b).

a. the number of books read by Jasper ≥ 10

b. the number of books read by Jasper = 10

I assume that, like the meaning in (31a), the meaning in (31b) is semantic and

not the result of a scalar implicature that results from (31a). See e.g. Geurts

2006 for a detailed ambiguity account, and for some compelling arguments

in favour of it.6

In the current framework, that of Hackl 2001, the weak reading in (31a) is

due to a weak semantics for the counting quantifier: i.e. many1 . I propose

that the strong reading, (31b), is accounted for by an alternative quantifier

many2 (taking inspiration from Geurts 2006.)7

many2 = λnλP λQ.∃!x[#x = n & P (x) & Q(x)]

∃!x stands for ‘exactly one . . . ’. When x ranges over groups of individuals,

∃!x[#x = n & P (x)] is verified by assigning to x the maximal group of

individuals with property P , where n is the cardinality of that group. This is

because any smaller group will not be the unique group with property P of its

cardinality. For instance, if our domain is {a, b, c, d}, all of which satisfy P ,

then ∃!x[#x = 3 & P (x)] is false, since several groups have three atoms and

property P , among which a ⊕ b ⊕ c and a ⊕ c ⊕ d. However, ∃![#x = 4 & P (x)]

6 But see Breheny 2008 for a dissenting view.

7 Here is a mnemonic. The 1 in many1 represents the fact that this operator is unilaterally

bound, namely lower-bounded only. Many2 on the other hand is bilaterally bound.

8 Here, ϕ[x/x 0 ] is the formula that is exactly like ϕ except that free occurrences of x have

been replaced by x 0 . Moreover, it is assumed that ϕ contains no free occurrences of x 0 .

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R.W.F. Nouwen

atoms while satisfying P . Consequently, ∃!x[#x = n . . .] stands for ‘exactly

n. . . ’. For instance, the doubly bound reading of Jasper read 10 books is (33).

The truth-conditions of (33) are such that it is false if Jasper read fewer than

10 books (for then there would not be 10 books he read), but also false if

Jasper read more than 10 books (for then there would be many groups of 10

books he read).

Not only does the option of two counting quantifiers, many1 and many2 ,

suffice to account for the ambiguity of bare numerals, it is moreover harmless

with respect to the semantics of comparative quantifiers. A sentence like

Jasper read more than 10 books is not ambiguous. It is important to show

that the availability of two distinct counting quantifiers does not predict

ambiguities in such examples. It will be instructive to see in somewhat more

detail why this is indeed the case.

The structure in (34) is exemplary of a simple sentence with a modified

numeral object. As explained earlier, the modified numeral applies to the

degree predicate that is created by moving the quantifier out of the DP.

Now that there is a choice between two counting quantifiers, the denotation

of the degree predicate depends on which of many1 and many2 is chosen. The

predicate in (35) is the result of a structure containing many1 ; the predicate

in (36) is based on many2 . If, in the actual world, Jasper read 10 books, then

(35) denotes {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10}. When, however, the predicate contains

the many2 quantifier, the denotation is a singleton set: {10} if Jasper reads

10 books. This is because only the maximal group of books read by Jasper

is such that it is the unique group of that kind of a certain cardinality.

In general, the many2 -based degree predicate extension is a singleton set

containing the maximum of the values in the denotation of the many1 -based

degree predicate.

(36) λd.∃!x[#x = d & book(x) & read(j, x)]

However, the maximal values for degree predicates like (35) and (36) are

3:12

Two kinds of modified numerals

option of having two distinct counting quantifiers does therefore not result

in any ambiguity.

When we turn to cases where the degree predicate is formed by moving

the modified numerals over a modal operator with universal force, something

similar can be observed. If Jasper is required to read (exactly) 10 books,

then the structure in (37) yields, again, the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10}. Once

more, the structure which contains the bilateral counting quantifier, the one

in (38), yields the set containing the maximum of its weaker counterpart.

λd.∃x[#x = d & book(x) & read(j, x)]

(38) [ λd [ require [ Jasper read d many2 books ] ] ]

λd.∃!x[#x = d & book(x) & read(j, x)]

Given that the relation between (38) and (37) is once again one of a set and its

maximal value, no ambiguities can be expected to arise when comparative

quantifiers are applied to these two predicates. This is as is desired.

Of course, it could be that the actual situation is not one containing a

specific requirement, but one with for instance a minimality requirement.

Say, for instance, Jasper has to read at least 4 books. In that case, (37) denotes

the set {1, 2, 3, 4}. The extension of (38), however, is the empty set. (In such a

context, there is no specific n such that Jasper has to read exactly n books.)

Clearly, the maximal value for the predicate is undefined in such a case.

This means that the logical form based on many2 will not lead to a sensible

interpretation and, so, we again do not expect to find ambiguity.

The case of predicates that are formed by abstracting over an existential

modal operator is illustrated in (39) and (40). If Jasper is allowed to read a

maximum of 10 books, then the two predicates are equivalent, both denoting

the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10}.9

(40) λd.♦∃!x[#x = d & book(x) & read(j, x)]

In sum, the option of two counting quantifiers many1 and many2 is irrelevant

when combined with a comparative quantifier. This is because the compara-

9 If there is in addition a lower bound, the two predicates are no longer equivalent, but their

maximum will be.

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R.W.F. Nouwen

the different counting quantifiers do not differ in their maximum value.

indicators. I start with the upper-bounded modifiers.

In the formula in (41), MOD↓B generalises over any of the class B modifiers at

most, maximally, up to, etc.10

their distribution so limited? What I think is the reason for the awkwardness

of a lot of examples with class B quantifiers is the fact that, in many cases,

(41) is a vacuous operator. To be precise, the two propostions in (42) are

equivalent whenever the cardinality predicate M denotes a singleton set. In

such a case, a bare numeral form is to be preferred over a numeral modified

by a class B modifier, since the latter derives the same meaning from a much

more complex linguistic form.

b. M(d)

division of pragmatic labour (Horn 1984). The idea is that a maxim of brevity,

10 For modifiers like at most and maximally, one might wonder whether (41) is not too restricted,

given that they are capable of modifying DPs more generally. However, it appears that there

is a common mechanism to all uses of such modifiers. For instance, (i) could be assigned its

intuitive meaning if we assume that at most has the semantics in (ii), where the operator

‘max’ compares properties on the rank order [assistant professor < associate professor <

full professor]:

It goes beyond the scope of this article to implement a formal connection between (ii) and

(41), but it should be clear that the underlying mechanism is the same.

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Two kinds of modified numerals

part of Grice’s maxim of Manner (Grice 1975), steers toward minimising the

form used to express something. This causes simple (unmarked) meanings to

be typically expressed by means of simple (unmarked) forms. Marked forms

which by convention could be given the same unmarked meaning as some

unmarked form are instead given a more marked interpretation. There are

many variations and implementations of this idea (McCawley 1978; Atlas &

Levinson 1981; Blutner 2000; van Rooij 2004),11 but what is most relevant for

this paper is the general idea that an unmarked meaning is blocked as an

interpretation for the marked form.

With this in mind, the equivalence of (42a) and (42b) whenever M denotes

a singleton set has profound consequences for when it actually makes sense

to state that the maximum of a degree predicate equals a certain value. That

is, in cases where (42a) equals (42b), we expect that the use of maximally

does not lead to an interpretation based solely on (42a), since the use of the

bare numeral form would result in the same meaning. To illustrate this in

some more detail let us carefully go through the following examples.

We know from the discussion above that one of the interpretations avail-

able for (43) is (44).

(44) ∃!x[#x = 10 & people(x) & invite(x)]

(46) [ maximally 10 [ λd [ Jasper invited d many1 people ] ] ]

maxn (∃x[#x = n & people(x) & invite(j, x)]) = 10

(47) [ maximally 10 [ λd [ Jasper invited d many2 people ] ] ]

maxn (∃!x[#x = n & people(x) & invite(j, x)]) = 10

The interpretations in (46) and (47) are equivalent. In fact, just like we do

not expect ambiguities to arise with comparative quantifiers on the basis

of the many1 /many2 choice, we do not expect any ambiguities to arise with

MOD↓B quantifiers, for the simple reason that both such operators involve

11 In fact, there is a close resemblance between this prevalent idea in pragmatics and blocking

principles in other parts of linguistics. The commonality is that two different expressions

cannot have identical meanings. See, for instance, the Elsewhere Condition (Kiparsky 1973)

in phonology or the Avoid Synonymy principle (Kiparsky 1983) in morphology.

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R.W.F. Nouwen

many1 are always those of predicates based on many2 . In what follows,

we will therefore gloss over the two equivalent options by representing the

semantics following the general scheme in (48).

maxn (∃(!)x[#x = n & people(x) & invite(j, x)]) = 10

Importantly, the single reading of (45) is equivalent to (44), the strong reading

of (43). The example in (43), however, reaches this interpretation by means

of a much simpler linguistic form, one which does not involve a numeral

modifier. I propose that this is why the reading in (48) of (45) does not

surface: it is blocked by (43).12

As observed above, we can nevertheless make sense of (45) once we

interpret the sentence to be about what the speaker holds possible. So, a

further possible reading for (45) is that in (49).

interpreting (43) from the perspective of speaker possibility.

12 An anonymous reviewer notes two complications with the proposed blocking mechanism.

First of all, s/he wonders why exactly 10 is not blocked in a similar way to minimally 10,

since the same reasoning seems to apply. I acknowledge that this is something that needs to

be explained. Interestingly, this is something any theory that believes in the existence of

an ‘exactly’ sense for numerals has to explain. One promising route has been proposed by

Geurts (2006), who suggests that exactly is semantically empty and that its only function is

“to reduce pragmatic slack” (p. 320). That is, whereas bare 100 allows for an imprecise rough

construal (Krifka 2007a), exactly 100 enforces precision. If Geurts is on the right track, then

there is no reason to expect that exactly 100 is blocked by 100.

A further complication noted by the same anonymous reviewer is that if we assume that

the ‘max’ operator is presuppositional, we might come to expect that maximally 100 blocks

100 instead of the other way around. This prediction appears to be made when at the same

time we assume the Maximize Presupposition principle (Heim 1991). Since maximally 100 and

100 share the same meaning, but the former triggers a presupposition, the use of 100 would

be blocked. This is a very interesting scenario, but since I have little to say about the kind

of presuppositions (if any) expressions like maximally trigger and I furthermore have no

thoughts on how maximize presupposition would interact with a brevity maxim, I will leave

this issue to further research.

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Two kinds of modified numerals

In other words, the meaning in (49) for (45) is not blocked by the bare numeral

form in (43) since (43) lacks this reading.

To be sure, I do not claim that (50) would be an available reading for (43).

That is, the particular kind of interpretation that examples like (45) receive

is available only as a last resort strategy. Underlying this analysis is the as-

sumption that there exist silent modal operators. I can offer no independent

evidence for this assumption, but stress that the intuitions regarding exam-

ples like (45) quite clearly point into the direction of some sort of speaker

modality. In work on superlative quantifiers, we find some alternatives to

the present account. Such approaches are meant to deal with at most and at

least only, but if my arguments above are on the right track, then we could

reinterpret these proposals for the semantics of superlative quantifiers as

applying to the whole of class B. For instance, the analysis of class B expres-

sions presented here differs from that of superlative modifiers in Geurts &

Nouwen 2007. According to the present proposal, the modal flavour of (45) is

due to a silent existential modal operator. In Geurts & Nouwen, however, the

modal was taken to be part of the lexical content of superlative quantifiers.

Another alternative, proposed for superlative modifiers in Krifka 2007b and

which is closer to the present proposal, is to analyse examples like (45) not as

involving a modal operator, but rather a speech act predicate, like assert. In

that framework, the analysis of (45) would say that n=10 is the maximal value

for which ∃(!)x[#x = n & people(x) & invite(j, x)] is assertable, rather than

possible.13 That is, according to Krifka, (45) is interpreted by assigning the

modified numeral scope over an illocutionary force operator, rather than

over a modal operator.

I will return to a comparison of these approaches below. I would like to

point out immediately, however, what I think are the major disadvantages of

both alternatives. The main problem is with examples like (51), which contain

an overt existential modal.

13 In his comments on the first version of this paper, David Beaver observed that it it is not

necessarily the speaker’s knowledge that matters, as can be seen from (his) example (i).

(i) I know how many people were at the party, but I’ve been told not to reveal that

number to the press. However, there were maximally 50 there.

It would be interesting to see if data like these help in reaching a synthesis of Krifka’s

account and the present proposal.

3:17

R.W.F. Nouwen

Its most salient reading is one in which 10 is said to be the maximum number

of people Jasper is allowed to invite. That is, it places an upper bound on

what is allowed. For Krifka, this is problematic since, here, the modified

numeral is quite obviously not a speech act operator. For the proposal in

Geurts & Nouwen 2007, such examples are problematic since the modal

lexical semantics of at most predicts a reading with a double modal operator,

one originating from the verb and one from the numeral modifier. To remedy

this, Geurts and Nouwen provide an essentially non-compositional analysis

of such examples as modal concord.14

In contrast, the current proposal deals effortlessly with examples, such

as (51). What was crucial to my explanation of how (45) gets to be interpreted

is that degree predicates based on modals with existential force denote

non-singleton sets even when the counting quantifier associated with the

numeral is many2 . This entails that saying that the maximum value for such

a predicate is n is not equivalent to saying that the predicate holds for n.

More formally, there is a contrast between (52a) and (52b).

a ∃!x[#x = 10 & people(x) & invite(j, x)])

b. maxn (♦∃(!)x[#x = n & people(x) & invite(j, x)]) = 10

i ♦∃!x[#x = 10 & people(x) & invite(j, x)])

existential modal, no blocking from the simpler bare numeral form will be

able to take place. The application of an upper bound class B quantifier to a

degree predicate is only felicitous if the resulting readings are not readings

that can be expressed just as well by omitting the class B modifier. This is

the case when a modal with existential force has scope inside the degree

14 A further problem I see with the proposal in Krifka 2007b is that the analysis does not

appear to extend straightforwardly to illocutionary forces other than assertion, although in

fairness this might be because (at the time of writing) no detailed exposition of this theory

exists. For instance, nothing suggests that superlative modified numerals can scope over a

question operator in questions.

An additional disadvantage for the proposal of Geurts and Nouwen is that it does not

yield an explanation of the lexical form of class B modifiers. Whereas the current proposal

assigns to a modifier like maximally the semantics of a maximality operator, an extension of

Geurts and Nouwen’s approach would have to take it to be a modal, thereby disassociating it

from the intuitive meaning of maximal.

3:18

Two kinds of modified numerals

thus also predicts the absence of weak readings for examples like (51). Given

the flexible scope of the numeral modifier we expect this sentence to have

two corresponding logical forms, (54a) and (54b). (From here on, indicates

deontic modality, to distinguish it from the (epistemic) speaker possibility

♦).

(54) a. maxn (∃(!)x[#x = n & people(x) & invite(j, x)]) = 10

b. [maxn (∃(!)x[#x = n & people(x) & invite(j, x)]) = 10]

If maximally 10 is taken to have wide scope over the modal, then we arrive

at (54a), the reading that says that the maximum number of people Jasper

is allowed to invite equals 10. This is not a semantic interpretation that is

available for (55). Its many2 reading, for instance, says that inviting exactly

10 people is something that Jasper is allowed to do. This is much weaker

than (54a). (The only way we can arrive at an equally strong reading for (55)

is by means of implicature.)

If we take the modal in (51) to have widest scope, as in (54b), the resulting

interpretation is one in which inviting exactly 10 people is allowed for Jasper.

This is the reading for (55) discussed above, and so it is blocked. As a result,

(54a) is the only interpretation available.

An interesting side to the account presented here is that the upper bound

class B quantifiers do not encode the ≤ relation. As maxima indicators, their

application only makes sense if what they apply to denotes a range of values.

Otherwise, using the strong reading of the bare numeral form will do just as

well.

Interestingly, the approach also predicts that some of the examples I

discussed above do not only result in a blocking effect, but could moreover

be predicted to be false. For instance, according to the approach set out

above, the meaning of (56a) is that in (56b).

15 As far as I can see, assertability would have the same (crucially weak) properties as possibility.

So, should a silent speech act predicate seem more plausible than a silent modal operator,

then ♦ can just as well be interpreted as expressing assertability. It appears that such a

move would be largely compatible with the proposal of Krifka 2007b.

3:19

R.W.F. Nouwen

b. ‘the maximum number of sides in a triangle is 10’

The reading in (56b) is not only blocked by A triangle has 10 sides, but

it is moreover plainly false. I believe that this predicts that (56a) should

be expected to have a somewhat different status from (57), which strictly

speaking has a true interpretation, but one that can be expressed by simpler

means.

even how this difference can be recognised. However, my own intuition tells

me that while (56) is never acceptable, (57) could be used in a joking fashion.

Native speakers inform me that (58) is marginally acceptable:

correspond to any of the class B expressions at least, from, minimally, etc.

Note first that minimality operators are sensitive to the many1 / many2

distinction. Consider the degree predicate [λd. John read d many1/2 books]

and, say, that John read 10 books. In the many1 version of the logical form,

the minimal degree equals 1. In fact, independent of how many books John

read, as long as he read books, the minimal degree will always be 1. In the

many2 version of the logical form, the predicate denotes a singleton set, {10}

if John read 10 books. The minimal degree in that case is, of course, 10.

These observations already straightforwardly account for our intuitions

for an example like (60).

The many1 interpretation of (60) will be rejected, for it will always be false.

The minimal value for any simple many1 -based degree predicate is always 1.

The many2 interpretation of (60) will be rejected too, for it will correspond

to an interpretation saying that John read (exactly) 10 books. This reading is

3:20

Two kinds of modified numerals

blocked by the bare numeral. (In fact, (60) in the many2 variant is equivalent

to John read maximally 10 books, which, as was explained above, is blocked

for the same reasons.)

We can save (60) by interpreting it with respect to an existential modal

operator. This yields two readings:

b. mind (♦∃!x[#x = d & read(j, x) & book(x)]) = 10

The form in (61a) is once more a contradiction: the minimal degree for which

it is deemed possible that John read d-many1 books is always 1. The reading

in (61b) is much more informative. It says that that the minimal number for

which it is thought possible that John read exactly so many books is 10. In

other words, this says that it is regarded as impossible that John read fewer

than 10 books. This is exactly the reading that is available.

Some words are in order on the interaction of numeral modifiers with non-

modal operators. Given the current proposal, any property that involves

existential quantification would license the use of a class B modifier. However,

it is known that degree operators (which we take modified numerals to be)

cannot move to take scope over nominal quantifiers (cf. Kennedy 1997; Heim

2000).16 This explains why (62) does not have the reading in (63).

(63) the person who is allowed to invite most friends is allowed to invite

50 friends

fiers, as in for instance example (9). This would suggest that some inten-

sional/modal analysis of the readings involved in such examples is in order.

(Thanks to Maribel Romero for pointing this out to me.) I will leave a detailed

analysis of these cases for further research.

16 In Heim’s formulation: If the scope of a quantificational DP contains the trace of a degree

phrase, it also contains that degree phrase itself. See Heim 2000 for details.

3:21

R.W.F. Nouwen

numerals and modals. I have extended these observations by showing how

existential modals have a tight connection to class B modifiers in that they

license their (otherwise blocked) existence. What I have not discussed so far

is how class B modifiers interact with universal modals. It turns out that this

part of the story is not straightforward at all.

Given my proposal in the previous section, we expect that there are in

principle four logical forms that correspond to (64).17

(65) í >min:

The minimum n such that Jasper will read n books should be 10

a. í[minn (∃x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]) = 10] many1

b. í[minn (∃!x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]) = 10] many2

(66) min> í:

The minimum n such that Jasper should read n books is 10

a. minn (í∃x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]) = 10 many1

b. minn (í∃!x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]) = 10 many2

It turns out that none of these logical forms provide a reading that is

in accordance to our intuitions regarding (64). First of all, notice that

minn (∃x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]) = 10 is a contradiction. If there

are 10 books that Jasper read, then there is also a singleton group containing

a book Jasper read. The minimum number of books Jasper read is therefore

either 1 (in case he read something) or 0 (in case he did not read anything).

It could never be 10. Consequently, (65a) is a contradiction. For a similar

reason, (66a) is a contradiction too. If there needs to be a group of 10 books

17 In this paper, I ignore readings which (for the case of at least) Büring (2008) calls speaker

insecurity readings and which Geurts & Nouwen (2007) discuss extensively. Basically, this

reading amounts to interpreting the modal statement with respect to speaker’s knowledge.

Such readings are especially prominent with superlative quantifiers. For instance, the speaker

insecurity reading of Jasper should read at least 10 books is: the speaker knows that there is

a lower bound on the number of books that Jasper should read, s/he does not know what

that lower bound is, but she does know that it exceeds 9.

Furthermore, I also ignore a reading of (64) in which 10 books is construed as a specific

indefinite. In that reading, (64) states that there are 10 specific books such that only if Jasper

reads these books will he comply with what is minimally required.

3:22

Two kinds of modified numerals

read by Jasper, then there also need to exist groups containing just a single

book read by Jasper. Once again, the minimum number referred to in (66a)

is either 0 or 1, never 10.

Turning to (65b), notice that the minn -operator is vacuous here, since

there is just a single n such that Jasper read exactly n books. This renders

(65b) equivalent to the many2 reading of Jasper should read 10 books, and

so we predict it to be blocked. The interpretation in (66b) does not fare any

better. In fact, the minn -operator is vacuous here as well. This means that

(65b) is equivalent to (66b) and that it is consequently also blocked. Even if

no blocking were to take place, (65b)/(66b) offer the wrong interpretation

anyway. They state that Jasper must read exactly 10 books (no more, no

fewer), which is not what (64) means.

One might think that the problems with (65b) and (66b) can be remedied

by abandoning quantification over sums and instead using reference to

(maximal) sums. For instance, (67) represents the truth-conditions we are

after. (Here σx returns the maximal sum that when assigned to x verifies the

scope of σ ).

Still, here too the application of minn is not meaningful, since there is only

a single n such that í[#σx (book(x) & read(j, x)) ≥ n] holds, which is 10

if (64) is true. As a consequence, it would not matter whether we applied

a maximality or a minimality operator. We then wrongly predict that (68)

should share a reading with (64). (Note that (65b) and (66b) suffer from the

same odd prediction, given that the operator minn has no semantic impact

there either.)

It appears then that the proposal defended in this article fails hopelessly on

sentences like (64). As I will show, however, things are not so dire as they

appear. In fact, I will argue that what we stumble upon here is a general,

but poorly understood property of modals, which could be summarised as

follows:

tors with existential modal force when minimality is a stake

3:23

R.W.F. Nouwen

I will not offer an explanation for this generalisation (but see Nouwen 2010a

for an attempt). I will simply show that if we look a bit closer at the inter-

pretation of modal operators, then we come to understand that my theory

actually yields a welcome analysis.

the correct predictions regarding its relation to universal modals are arrived

at by an essentially non-compositional mechanism. A central claim made in

that paper is that superlative quantifiers are modal expressions themselves.

For instance, (71a) was proposed to correspond to (71b).18 Furthermore, it

was assumed that there may be a non-compositional interaction between the

modal that is implicitly contributed by a modified numeral and an explicit

modal operator. For instance, (72a) is interpreted as an instance of modal

concord, as in (72b), where the two modals fuse and the modal takes on the

deontic flavour of need.19

b. ∃x[#x = 10 & book(x)& read(j, x)]

(72) a. John needs to read at least 10 books.

b. í∃x[#x = 10 & book(x)& read(j, x)]

18 This is how I see the theoretical landscape: Although not immediately obvious, the proposal

by Geurts and Nouwen already carries in it the idea that superlative quantifiers are minimality

and maximality operators. For instance, (71b) is equivalent to stating that 10 is the minimal

number of books John is allowed to read. Given the basic idea of treating class B operators

as min/max-operators, one has a range of options to account for the distribution of such

quantifiers and for their behaviour in intensional contexts. Geurts and Nouwen represent

one extreme, where the lexicon specifies the exact behaviour of such quantifiers (together

with the rule of modal concord). The present proposal puts forward the other extreme,

where the lexical entry for superlative (and other class B) quantifiers is rather minimal, and

where pragmatic mechanisms account for distribution and behaviour in intensional contexts.

19 I am simplifying the analysis here a little bit. Geurts & Nouwen (2007) propose that

there is an additional conjunct to the meaning of sentences containing superlative quan-

tifiers, for which they leave implicit whether it is entailed or implicated. For (71), for

instance, there would be an additional condition in the truth-conditions saying: ¬∃x[#x >

10& book(x) & read(j, x)]. Similarly for (72).

3:24

Two kinds of modified numerals

The approach of Geurts and Nouwen is the most broadly applicable approach

to superlative quantifiers in the (admittedly small body of) literature on that

topic. There are alternatives on the market, but they do not handle examples

like these very well. As I mentioned above, Krifka (2007b) takes at least to

be a speech act modifier. Basically, an example like (71) is analysed by Krifka

in terms of what the speaker finds assertable and is paraphrased as follows:

the lowest n such that it is assertable that John read n books is 10. When

at least is embedded in an intensional context, however, it does not modify

the strength of assertability, but rather the intensional operator. So, taking

Krifka’s analysis as suitable not just for superlative, but rather for all class B

quantifiers, (72a) would be paraphrased as (73).

(73) 10 is the smallest value for n such that John should read n books

In such cases, Krifka’s analysis is identical to the one I have set out above

and it runs in exactly the same problem: (73) is not the reading we are after.

Rather, (72a) means that 10 is the smallest number of books John is allowed

to read.

Geurts & Nouwen (2007) and Krifka (2007b) say nothing about the distinc-

tion between class A and class B expressions. However, if we extend their

proposals for superlative quantifiers to cover all B-type quantifiers, then we

have an interesting trio of competing characterisations of such expressions.

At face value, the observations made so far in this section would appear to

speak in favour of the modal concord proposal of Geurts & Nouwen (2007)

(generalised to all class B quantifiers) and against the account defended here

or in Krifka 2007b. As I will argue now, however, there are reasons to believe

that the problematic predictions made by the latter two theories are not due

to the semantics of the modified numeral, but are actually the result of an

overly simplistic understanding of requirements. What I will do is discuss in

some detail examples like (74).

(74) The minimum number of books John needs to read to please his

mother is 10.

3:25

R.W.F. Nouwen

Note, secondly, that (74) spells out the semantics I have proposed for (75).

What I will show now is that when we look into the semantic details of (74),

we will run into exactly the same problems as we did for (75). What this

shows is that rather than thinking that my account of class B quantifiers is

on the wrong track, there are actually reasons to believe that the proposal

lays bare a hitherto unexplored problem for the semantics of modals like

need, require, etc.

Let us consider the semantics of (74). Say that, in fact, the minimal

requirements for pleasing John’s mother are indeed John reading 10 books.

That is, if John reads 10 or more books, she is happy. If he reads fewer,

she will not be pleased. Standard accounts of goal-directed modality (von

Fintel & Iatridou 2005) assume that statements of the form to q, need to p

are true if and only if p holds in all worlds in which the goal q holds. Below, I

refer to the worlds in which John pleases his mother as the goal worlds. It is

instructive to see what we know about the propositions that are true in such

worlds. The following is consistent with the context described above.

(76) a. In all goal worlds: ∃x[#x = 10 & book(x) & read(j, x)]

b. In all goal worlds: ∃x[#x = 9 & book(x) & read(j, x)]

c. In all goal worlds: ∃x[#x = 1 & book(x) & read(j, x)]

d. In some (not all) goal worlds: ∃x[#x = 11 & book(x) & read(j, x)]

e. In some (not all) goal worlds: ∃x[#x = 12 & book(x) & read(j, x)]

f. In no goal world: ¬∃x[book(x) & read(j, x)]

Let us now analyse some examples. First of all, (77a) and (77b) are intuitively

true and are also predicted to be true ((77a) by virtue of (76a) and (77b) by

virtue of (76c).)

b. To please his mother, John needs to read a book.

The example in (78) is intuitively false, and is also predicted to be false, for

the context is such that there are goal worlds in which John reads only 10,

and not 11, books.

however, then the theory makes a wrong prediction. The example in (79) is

intuitively false. If interpreted as (80), however, it is predicted to be true (by

3:26

Two kinds of modified numerals

virtue of (76c)).

(79) The minimum number of books John needs to read, to please his

mother, is 1.

(80) minn [In all goal worlds: ∃x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]] = 1

In general, theories such as that of von Fintel & Iatridou (2005) predict that

if S is an entailment scale of propositions, and p is a proposition on this

scale, then if p is a minimal requirement for some goal proposition q, then

a statement of the form “the minimum requirement to q is p” is always

predicted to be false, except when p is the minimal proposition of S. This

makes a devastating prediction, namely that minimal requirements could

never be expressed, since they would always correspond to the absolute

minimum.

One might think that what is going wrong in the example above is that I

assume that when we talk about how many books John read we should be

talking about existential sentences, that is about at least how many books

John read. The alternative would be to describe the number of books John

read by means of the counting quantifier many 2 , that is, how many books

John read exactly. I’m afraid this only makes the problem worse. Here is a

description of the relevant context in terms of the exact number of books

that were read by John.

(81) a. In some but not all goal worlds: John read exactly 10 books.

b. In no goal world: John read exactly 9 books.

c. In no goal world: John read exactly 1 book.

d. In some but not all goal worlds: John read exactly 11 books.

e. In some but not all goal worlds: John read exactly 12 books.

Now, there is no number n such that John read exactly n books in all goal

worlds. So, the smallest number of books John needs to read does not refer.

The upshot is that there is no satisfactory analysis of examples like (74)

under the assumptions made here. In general, it seems that, under standard

assumptions, there is no satisfactory analysis of minimal requirements.

Whatever way we find to fix the semantics of cases like (74), however, this fix

will work to save the account of class B quantifiers too, for (74) was a literal

spell-out of the proposed interpretation of similar sentences with at least,

minimally, etc. It goes beyond the scope of this article to provide such a fix.

The overview in (81), however, can help to indicate where we should look for

3:27

R.W.F. Nouwen

a solution.20 Given that there is no goal world in which John read exactly

n books for n’s smaller than 10, it follows that 10 is the minimal number

of books John could read to please his mother. In other words, examples

like (74) show that, in the scope of a minimality operator, modals that are

lexically universal quantifiers get a weaker interpretation.

That said, it is time to revisit example (64), repeated here as (82).

and two of which were blocked by a non-modified form. Let us revisit one of

these logical forms, namely the one with a narrow scope modal and a doubly

bound counting quantifier, represented in (83). The resulting truth-conditions

were presented above as (84).

(84) minn (í∃!x[#x = n & book(x) & read(j, x)]) = 10

standing to assume that (83) is interpreted as (84), and that it looks like there

is a mapping to a form like (85), instead.

At this point I do not have anything to offer which provides the mechanism

behind the generalisation that the combination of a universal modal and a

minimality operator leads to a semantics which is existential in nature. What

is relevant for the present purposes is that this is a general phenomenon.

Interestingly, this means there are noteworthy connections to other areas

where the semantics of a modal statement appear mysterious. Schwager

(2005), for instance, notices that certain imperatives, which are standardly

considered to have universal modal force, require a weaker semantics. Her

key examples are German imperatives containing for example.

A: Kauf zum Beispiel keine Zigaretten!

Buy for instance no cigarettes

“For example, don’t buy any cigarettes!”

20 See Nouwen 2010a for a proposal along these lines.

3:28

Two kinds of modified numerals

In the context of the question asked in (86), the imperative does not convey

that to comply with the advice, the hearer has to stop buying cigarettes.

Instead, it is interpreted as stating that one of the things one could do to

save money is to stop buying cigarettes. Thus, examples like these display

a mechanism that is similar to the interaction of numeral modifiers and

modality.

The mysterious interaction of modified numerals and modals is moreover

reminiscent of the interaction of modals and disjunction (Zimmermann 2000;

Geurts 2005; Aloni 2007), especially since, on an intuitive level at least,

a class B modified numeral like minimally 10 (and, quite obviously, 10 or

more) appears to correspond to a disjunction of alternative cardinalities,

with 10 as the minimal disjunct.21 A central issue in the literature on modals

and disjunction is that classical semantic assumptions fail to capture the

entailments of sentences where a disjunctive statement is embedded under a

modal operator (Kamp 1973). A detailed comparison of this complex issue

with the discussion of minimal requirements that I presented here, however,

will be left to further research.

In this section, I will attempt to give some initial answers to three empirical

questions concerning the distinction between class A and B modified nu-

merals that is central to this article. First of all, I turn to the issue of which

expressions go with which class. So far, I have restricted my attention mostly

to, on the one hand, comparative quantifiers (as proto-typical class A expres-

sions) and, on the other hand, superlative, minimality/maximality and up

to-modified numerals (as representatives of class B). What about expressions

like the prepositional over n or under n or the double bound between n and

m or from n to m? Below, I will turn briefly to such expressions.

A second empirical question concerns the validity of the examples used

so far. Although I believe that the intuitions concerning the constructed

examples in this article are rather clear, my plea for two kinds of modified

numerals would still benefit from some independent objective support.

Below, I present the results of a small corpus study that clearly reflects the

distinction argued for in this article.

Finally, this section will turn to the cross-linguistic generality of the

21 See Nilsen 2007 and Büring 2008 for suggestions along this line for the modifier at least

only.

3:29

R.W.F. Nouwen

proposal. I will provide data from a more or less random set of languages that

suggest that the class A/B distinction is not a quirk of English or Germanic,

or even Indo-European, but is, in fact, quite general.

I will leave it an open question exactly which quantifiers belong to which class.

Nevertheless, I can already offer some speculations on several quantifiers

that I have so far not discussed. To start with disjunctive quantifiers, it

appears that these are clear cases of class B expressions.

b. #A triangle has 3 or fewer sides.

With disjunctive quantifiers in class B, one might wonder whether there are

any examples of class A expressions which are not the familiar comparative

quantifiers more/fewer/less than n. I think that locative prepositional modi-

fiers are a likely candidate for class A membership, however. In fact, I believe

that the locative/directional distinction in spatial prepositions corresponds

to the class A/B distinction when these prepositions are used as numeral

modifiers.

Roughly, locative prepositions express the location of an object and are

compatible with the absence of directionality or motion. Directional prepo-

sitions, on the other hand, cannot be used as mere indicators of location.

(88) Locative:

a. John was standing under a tree.

b. That cloud is hanging over San Francisco.

c. Breukelen is located between Utrecht and Amsterdam.

(89) Directional:

a. #John was standing up to here.

b. #John was standing from here.

c. #Breukelen is located from Utrecht to Amsterdam.

b. You can get a car for maximally €1000.

3:30

Two kinds of modified numerals

The example in (90b) is somewhat strange, since it claims that the most

expensive car you can buy is €1000. The example in (89a), in contrast, makes

no such claim. It clearly has a weak reading: there are cars that are cheaper

than €1000 and there might be more expensive ones too. As explained above,

such weak readings are typical for class A quantifiers and do not occur with

class B quantifiers.22 Furthermore, under seems perfectly compatible with

definite amounts, such as in (91).

(91) The total number of guests is under 100. To be precise, it’s 87.

other locative prepositions seem to behave similarly to under.

(92) The total number of guests is between 100 and 150. It’s 122.

directional counterpart from . . . (up) to . . . , which behaves like a class B

modifier: it is incompatible with definite amounts, as in (93), but felicitous if

it relates to a range of values.

(93) #The ticket to the Stevie Wonder concert that I bought yesterday cost

from €100 to €800.

(94) Tickets to the Stevie Wonder concert cost from €100 to €800.

It appears then that locative prepositions turn into class A modifiers, while

directional ones turn into class B modifiers. A potential counterexample,

however, is over, which apart from a (relatively rarely used) locative sense, as

in (88b), has a directional sense, such as exemplified in (95).

over 100 is clearly relating the precise weight 104kg with 100kg. Note in

(97) how this contrasts with the directional 100 . . . and up, which is made

22 An anonymous reviewer notes a complication. It appears that under cannot take wide scope

with respect to a modal. That is, it fails to display scope ambiguities such as the one in (20)

above. For instance, (i) (which is an example given by the reviewer) is odd, since it misses an

interpretation where the modified numeral has scope over require.

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R.W.F. Nouwen

(97) a. #He weighs 100 kg and up.

b. He is allowed to weigh 100 kg and up.

A potential explanation for why the numeral modifier over lacks a direc-

tional/class B sense23 is that the use of prepositions in numeral quantifiers is

restricted to prepositions that are vertically oriented. This is connected to

the observation of Lakoff & Johnson 1980 that cardinality is metaphorically

vertical: more is higher (as in a high number), less is lower (as in a low

number). Prepositions in modified numerals follow this metaphor.24 What

is interesting about over, however, is that only its locative sense is vertical.

Its directional sense, as in (95), rather expresses a mainly horizontal motion.

This could explain why there is no class B sense numeral modifier over.

Further clues that this analysis is on the right track come from Dutch,

where the preposition over lacks a locative sense.

The cloud hangs over San Francisco.

(99) De vogel vloog over de brug.

The bird flew over the bridge.

Instead of over in (98), boven (above) should be used for locative meanings.

The cloud hangs above San Francisco.

‘The cloud hangs over San Francisco.’

In Dutch, only boven can modify numerals. Over, which lacks a vertical sense,

is unacceptable in modified numerals.

Inflation can {above / over} the 10% be.

‘Inflation can be over 10%’

23 Thanks to Joost Zwarts for discussing this matter with me.

24 Up (to) and under are clearly vertical. Between and from . . . to are compatible with all possible

axes.

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Two kinds of modified numerals

that there is a correspondence between the locative/directional and the A/B

distinction. In any case, it should be clear that the set of prepositional

quantifiers offers an interesting range of contrasts that support the existence

of two classes of modified numerals.

To summarise this subsection, I tentatively put forward the following

classification for English modified numerals.

(102) Class A

(Positive:) more than —, over —

(Negative:) fewer than —, less than —, under —

(Neutral:) between — and —

(103) Class B

(Positive:) at least —, minimally —, from — (up), — or more

(Negative:) at most —, maximally — , up to —, — or fewer, — or

less

(Neutral:) from — and —

Missing from this classification are the negative comparative quantifiers like

no more/fewer than 10. The reason for this is that the occurrence of negation

complicates the comparison with other quantifiers. In fact, I think that such

quantifiers are best treated as the compositional combination of a class A

comparative modifier with a negative differential no. See Nouwen 2008b for

the consequences of such a move and for more details on the interpretations

available for sentences containing such quantifiers.

I now turn to a small corpus study I conducted which supports the division

between class A and class B modifiers. Recall that one of the central obser-

vations in favour of the distinction connected to contrasts such as (104).

Whereas (104a) can be interpreted with respect to a definite actual number

of people invited by Jasper, (104b) does not allow such an interpretation and

instead is evaluated in relation to what the speaker holds possible.

b. Jasper invited maximally 100 people. #87, to be precise.

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R.W.F. Nouwen

are indicators of maxima. The indication of the maximum of a single value

leads to infelicity. Existential modals, however, introduce a range of (possible)

values, which thereby license the application of the maxima indicator. For

examples like (104b), where no overt modal is present, the hearer will have

to accommodate an interpretation with respect to speaker possibility. Given

that ♦-modals licenses the application of an upper bound class B modifier,

one would expect, however, that class B modifiers co-occur with an overt

modal operator relatively often. I conducted a corpus study to find out

whether this expectation is fulfilled.

6.2.1 Method

I used the free service for searching the Corpus of Contemporary American

English (COCA, 385 million words, a mix of fiction, science, newspaper and

entertainment texts and spoken word transcripts) at americancorpus.org

(Davies 2008). For each numeral modifier I took 100 quasi-random25 occur-

rences of the modifier with a numeral. For each of these cases I examined

whether the modified numeral was in the scope of an explicit existential

modal operator (such as can, could, might, possibly, allow, etc.) In other

words, I only looked at the surface form and only counted the number of

cases where a modal expression has a scope relation with a modified numeral.

Given the theory presented in this article, the prediction is that this number

is significantly higher with class B numerals than with class A expressions.

I compared five modifiers: fewer than, under, between, at most and up

to. Not all occurrences of these modifiers with a numeral in the corpus were

taken into consideration. For instance, (105) was ignored because in this

example up to is probably not a constituent.26 That is, this example contains

the particle verb to lift up, rather than the verb to lift.

and pressures are more like Earth’s.

preposition rather than a preposition in a role of numeral modifier. (For

instance, examples resembling He was known under 2 different names.)

25 ‘Quasi’, since the results are given in chronological order and I would just take the earliest

hits.

26 From: “To boldly go. . . ”, Donald Robertson (1994), Astronomy, Vol. 22, Iss. 12; pg. 34, 8 pgs.

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Two kinds of modified numerals

6.2.2 Results

The results, summarised in the table in (106), support the proposal in this

article. Here, P is the percentage of occurrences within a existential modal

context, within a sample of 100 occurrences of that modifer.27

fewer than under between at most up to

P 4% 3% 4% 23% 21%

The corpus thus shows a clear preference for combining class B quantifiers

with existential modal operators, as was predicted.28 Whether the data are as

clear as (106) for other expressions too remains to be seen. It will be difficult

to extend this type of study to other modifiers. Maximally and from. . . to,

for instance, were included in the present corpus search, but did not yield

enough occurrences to make a meaningful comparison.

The class A/B distinction is not a peculiarity of the English language. I will

suggest in this subsection that, in fact, the distinction is quite general and

that languages seem to fill in the two classes in roughly the same way. Dutch,

for instance, mirrors the English data perfectly. To illustrate, (107) and (108)

shows the A/B distinction in a contrast between comparative and superlative

quantifiers.

A triangle has more than 1 side.

(108) #Een driehoek heeft minstens 2 zijdes.

A triangle has at least 2 sides.

There are similar contrasts for other numeral modifiers. In a nutshell, the

Dutch data suggests the two classes in (109), which is parallel to English.

predicted, this yielded no significant difference between class A and class B modifiers. For

all modified numerals, this number was between 1 and 5.

28 The contrast between the Class A and Class B data is significant (χ 2 =41.2, df=1, p =

1.375×10−10 .)

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R.W.F. Nouwen

(Positive:) meer dan — (more than), boven de — (above the)

(Negative:) minder dan — (fewer/less than), onder de — (under the)

(Neutral:) tussen de — en de — (between the. . . and. . . )

(110) Dutch Class B

(Positive:) ten minste —, minstens —, op z’n minst — (at least), vanaf

— (from off), zeker — (certain), minimaal — (minimal)

(Negative:) ten hoogste —, hoogstens —, op z’n hoogst — (at most),tot

— (up to), maximaal — (maximal)

(Neutral:) van — tot — (from — to —)

In other languages, we find similar data. For instance, the division between

comparative and superlative modifiers appears to be cross-linguistically quite

general. In Italian, for instance, the following contrast exists.

A triangle has more than 1 side.

(112) #Un triangolo ha almeno 2 lati.

A triangle has at least 2 sides.

In Chinese, there also exists a superlative form that behaves like a class B

modifier.

triangle most-little have 2-CL side

On the other hand, there also exists an alternative form resembling English

at least, which behaves differently. The form zhi-shao can be used as in a

similar way as English at least is in sentences like At least it doesn’t rain!.

Despite this parallel to the English superlative modifiers, the example in (114)

appears to be fine, which suggests zhi-shao is of type A.

triangles to-little have 2-CL side

I leave a more detailed investigation of such data for further research. What-

ever the outcome, however, the data first and foremost reveal that the type

of contrasts that have been the central focus of this paper occur in Chinese

and that, thereby, Chinese also appears to have the class A/B distinction.

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Two kinds of modified numerals

in two classes in accordance with the locative/directional distinction that

exists for their spatial meanings. The clearest case of a class B directional

prepositional modifier in English is up to. In many other languages, one

and the same particle is used for indicating spatial, numerical and temporal

extremes. (In English, up to cannot be used as a temporal operator, for

which until exists.) In Dutch, for instance, the preposition tot has these

three functions. Crucially, in all these three domains tot displays class B

characteristics.

A triangle has up to/until 10 sides.

(116) #Je auto stond tot hier geparkeerd.

Your car stood up to/until here parked.

‘#Your car was parked up to here’

(117) Je auto mag tot hier geparkeerd worden.

Your car may up to/until here parked be.

‘You may park your car up to here’

(118) #Jasper kwam tot middernacht de kamer binnengelopen.

J. came up to/until midnight the room inside-walked.

‘#J. entered the room until midnight’

(119) Jasper mag tot middernacht de kamer binnen komen

J. may up to/until midnight the room inside come

lopen.

walk.

‘J. is allowed to enter the room until midnight’

Similar data exist for German bis (zu), Hebrew ’ad, Catalan fins a, Spanish

hasta and Italian fino a. In fact, in Italian it appears that (120) is generally

awkward, resisting a reading that connects to speaker’s possibility. However,

it becomes acceptable if an overt modal verb is inserted.

John has invited {at most / until} 50 friends.

(121) John può invitare {al massimo / fino a} 50 amici.

John can invite {at most / until} 50 friends.

3:37

R.W.F. Nouwen

7 Conclusion

The central aim of this article has been to put forward the empirical ob-

servation that numeral modifiers come in two classes: those that relate to

definite amounts (class A) and those that resist association with definite

cardinality (class B). Theoretically, I proposed that underlying this distinction

is a difference in the kind of relations numeral modifiers encode: either a

simple comparison relation between numbers (class A) or a relation between

a range of values and its minimum or maximum (class B). I furthermore

showed how this theory can be implemented in a framework where numeral

modifiers are treated as degree quantifiers.

While there already existed analyses of both type A and type B modifiers,

the class difference that was the central focus of this article has not yet been

discussed. For the treatment of class A quantifiers in this article I adopted

the proposal of Hackl 2001. My account of class B modifiers, on the other

hand, is original. It can be compared to two closely related proposals on the

semantics of superlative modifiers: Geurts & Nouwen 2007, where superlative

modified numerals are proposed to lexically specify modal operators, and

Krifka 2007b, where superlative quantifiers are proposed to be speech act

modifiers. Both works do not discuss the class A/B distinction, but I take it

that both these proposals, in view of the main observations of this article,

can be viewed as accounts not just of superlative quantifiers, but of class

B members in general. As suggested in section 5, my proposal is in certain

respects quite close to Krifka’s. It differs greatly, however, from Geurts &

Nouwen 2007 in the way the interaction between modified numerals and

modality is accounted for. In a way, the current article as well as Krifka

2007b represent a position where quantifiers lexically specify quite minimal

functions, which consequently leads to much of the work being done by

pragmatic mechanisms (such as blocking). For the proposal in Geurts &

Nouwen 2007, on the other hand, the balance is different in that a much

greater burden is placed on semantics. An in-depth comparison of these

accounts of class B quantifiers, however, is left for further research.

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Utrecht Institute for Linguistics OTS

Janskerkhof 13, NL-3512 BL

Utrecht, the Netherlands

R.W.F.Nouwen@uu.nl

3:41

Semantics & Pragmatics Volume 3, Article 4: 1–42, 2010

doi: 10.3765/sp.3.4

Iffiness∗

Anthony S. Gillies

Rutgers University

Decision 2009-09-21 / Revised 2009-10-14 / Accepted 2009-11-18 / Final Version

Received 2010-01-17 / Published 2010-02-01

Abstract

How do ordinary indicative conditionals manage to convey conditional in-

formation, information about what might or must be if such-and-such is

or turns out to be the case? An old school thesis is that they do this by

expressing something iffy: ordinary indicatives express a two-place condi-

tional operator and that is how they convey conditional information. How

indicatives interact with epistemic modals seems to be an argument against

iffiness and for the new school thesis that if -clauses are merely devices for

restricting the domains of other operators. I will make the trouble both clear

and general, and then explore a way out for fans of iffiness.

strict conditionals, dynamic semantics

1 An iffy thesis

One thing language is good for is imparting plain and simple information:

there is an extra chair at our table or we are all out of beer. But — happily — we

∗ This paper has been around awhile, versions of it circulating since 05.2006 and accruing

a lot of debts of gratitude along the way. Chris Kennedy, Jim Joyce, Craige Roberts, Josef

Stern, Rich Thomason, audiences at the Rutgers Semantics Workshop (October 2007), the

Michigan L&P Workshop (Lite Version, November 2007), the Arché Contextualism & Relativism

Workshop (May 2008), the University of Chicago Semantics & Philosophy Language Workshop

(March 2009), and — especially (actually, especially∗ ) — Josh Dever, David Beaver, Kai von

Fintel, Brian Weatherson, and the anonymous S&P referees have all done their best trying

to save me from making too many howlers. But too many is surely context dependent, so

caveat emptor. This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation

under Grant No. BCS-0547814.

©2010 A. S. Gillies

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Non-

Commercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0).

A. S. Gillies

do not only exchange plain information about tables, chairs, and beer mugs.

We also exchange conditional information thereof: if we are all out of beer, it

is time for you to buy another round. That is very useful indeed.

Conditional information is information about what might or must be, if

such-and-such is or turns out to be the case. My target here has to do with

how such conditional information manages to get expressed by indicative

conditionals (not so called because anyone thinks that’s a great name but

because no one can do any better). Some examples:

(1) a. If the goat is behind door #1, then the new car is behind door #2.

b. If the No. 9 shirt regains his form, then Barça might advance.

c. If Carl is at the party, then Lenny must also be at the party.

the consequent clause, and all of them express a bit of ordinary conditional

information.1 What I am interested in is how well the indicatives play with

the epistemic modals.

What these examples say is plain. Take (1b). This says that — within

the set of possibilities compatible with the information at hand — among

those in which the star striker regains his form, some are possibilities in

which Barça advance. Or take (1c). It says something about the occurrence

of Lenny-is-at-the-party possibilities within the set of Carl-is-at-the-party

possibilities — that, given the information at hand, every possibility of the

latter stripe is also of the former stripe. So what sentences like these say is

plain. How they say it isn’t. That’s my target here: How is it that the if s in

our examples manage to express conditional information and do so in a way

compatible with how they play with epistemic modals?

The simplest story about how the if s in our examples manage to express

conditional information is that each of them expresses the information of

a conditional. Which is to say: what these conditional sentences mean can

be read-off the fact that if expresses a conditional operator. Let’s say that

a story about if is iffy iff it takes if to express a bona fide operator, a bona

fide iffy operator (that is, a conditional operator properly so called), and the

same bona fide iffy operator in each of the sentences in (1). We will have to

sharpen that up by saying what it means for an operator to be a conditional

1 We ought to be careful to distinguish between conditional sentences (sentences of natural

language), conditional connectives (two-place sentential connectives in some regimented

language that may serve to represent the logical forms of conditional sentences), and

conditional operators (relations that may serve as the denotations of conditional connectives).

4:2

Iffiness

operator properly so called. But that is the gist: iffiness — a.k.a. the operator

view — is the thesis that ordinary indicative conditionals manage to express

conditional information because if expresses a conditional operator.

Depending on your upbringing, the operator view of if may well seem

either obvious or obviously wrongheaded. More on that below. Either way,

it is a hard line to maintain: how conditional sentences play with epistemic

modals seems to refute it. A seeming refutation isn’t quite the same as an

actual one, though. I will show that the refutation isn’t quite right by showing

how fans of iffiness can account for what needs accounting for. But before

showing how the operator view can be made to account for how if s and

modals interact I want to make it look for all the world like it can’t be done.

The operator view is an old school story about indicatives. It says that if

expresses some relation between the (semantic value of the) antecedent and

consequent. So if takes its place alongside other connectives and expresses

an operator — the same operator — on the semantic values of the sentences it

takes as arguments.2 To tell a story like this we have to say exactly what that

operator is. But not just any telling will do. I want to show how our simple

examples cause what looks like insurmountable trouble (doom, even) for any

version of the operator view. Here’s an informal sketch of the trouble, what

rides on it, and how — eventually — we can and ought to get out of the mess.

Take this sketch as a promissory note that a formally precise version of all

that can be given; the rest of the paper makes good on that.

Suppose if expresses the limit case conditional operator of material

implication. Iffiness requires that in sentences like (1b) and (1c) either the

epistemic modals outscope the conditionals or the conditionals outscope

the modals. Neither choice gets the truth conditions right if the conditional

operator is the horseshoe. That’s easy to see (and well known).3 Linguists

grow up on arguments like that. That is one reason why even though the

operator view is the first thing a logician thinks of, it is the last thing a

linguist does.

2 If is a little word with a big history — a big history that we can’t adequately tour here. But

there are guides for hire: for instance, Bennett (2003) and von Fintel (2009).

3 The material conditional analysis of ordinary indicatives is defended (in somewhat different

ways) by, for example, Grice (1989), Jackson (1987), and Lewis (1976). A textbook version of

this “no-scope” argument that has the horseshoe analysis as its target appears in von Fintel

& Heim 2007.

4:3

A. S. Gillies

But (as I’ll show) this very same trouble holds no matter what conditional

operator an iffy story says if expresses. To see that requires two things. First,

we need to say in a precise way what counts as a conditional operator (Section

4). Given some pretty weak assumptions iffiness requires that if means all

(well, all relevant). Second, there are some characteristic Facts about how

indicatives and epistemic modals interact (Section 5). These neatly divide:

there are some consistency facts and there are some intuitive entailment

facts. The operator view requires that either the conditionals outscope the

modals or the modals outscope the conditionals. Something general then

follows: no matter what conditional operator we say if expresses, one scope

choice is ruled out by the consistency facts, the other by the entailments

(Section 6).

That seems to be bad news for any fan of any version of the old school

operator view. And there seems to be more bad news in the offing since

the operator view isn’t the only game in town (in some circles, it’s a game

played only on the outskirts of town). The anti-iffiness rival — a.k.a. the

restrictor view — is a new school approach. It embraces Kratzer’s thesis that

if is not a connective at all: it doesn’t express an operator, a fortiori not

an iffy operator, and a fortiori not the same iffy operator in each of our

example sentences it figures in.4 Instead, says the restrictor analysis, if

simply restricts other operators. In the cases we will care about, it restricts

(possibly covert) epistemic modals. The restrictor view makes embarrassingly

quick work of the data that spells such trouble for the operator view (Section

7).

But the success of the restrictor analysis is no argument against Chuck

Taylors and skyhooks tout court. That’s because there are old school stories

that say that if expresses a strict conditional operator over possibilities

compatible with the context, and that it can do all the restricting that needs

doing (Sections 8). Once we see just how, we can look back and see more

4 The restrictor view gets its inspiration from Lewis’s (1975) argument that certain if s (under

adverbs of quantification) cannot be understood as expressing some conditional but rather

serve to mark an argument place in a polyadic construction. Kratzer’s thesis is that this holds

for if across the board. The classic references are Kratzer 1981, 1986. There is another rival,

too: some take if to be an operator, but an operator that does not (when given arguments)

express a proposition (Adams 1975; Gibbard 1981; Edgington 1995, 2008). Instead, they say,

if s express but do not report conditional beliefs on the part of their speakers. I will ignore

this view here: it doesn’t really start off as the most plausible candidate, the trouble I make

here about how if s and modals interact makes it less plausible not more, and it will just take

us too far afield.

4:4

Iffiness

clearly what is at stake in the difference between new school and old, why

iffiness is worth pursuing (Section 9), and how this version of the old school

story relates to recent dynamic semantic treatments (Section 10).

3 Ground rules

Let’s simplify. Assume that meanings get associated with sentences by getting

associated with formulas in an intermediate language that represents the

relevant logical forms (lfs) of them. Thus a story, old school or otherwise,

has to first say what the relevant lfs are and then assign those lfs semantic

values.

We will begin with an intermediate language L that has a conditional

connective that will serve to represent the lfs of ordinary indicatives. So let

L be generated from a stock of atomic sentence letters, negation (¬), and

conjunction (∧) in the usual way. But L also has the connective (if ·)(·),

and the modals must and might. What I have to say can be said about

an intermediate language that allows that the modals mix freely with the

formulas of the non-modal fragment of L but restricts (if ·)(·) so that it

takes only non-modal sentences in its first argument. So assume that L is

such an intermediate language. When these restrictions outlive their utility,

we can exchange them for others.5

Iffiness requires that the if of English expresses something properly iffy.

That leaves open just which conditional operator we say that the if of English

means. But our choices here are not completely free, and some ground rules

will impose some order on what we may say. These will constrain our choice

by saying what must be true for a conditional operator to be rightfully so

called. But before getting to that, I’ll start with what I will assume about

contexts.

First, a general constraint: assume that truth-values — for the if s and

the modals (when we come to that), as well as for the boolean fragment of

L — are assigned at an index (world) i with respect to a context. I will assume

that W , the space of possible worlds, is finite. Nothing important turns on

this, and it simplifies things.

For the fragment of L with no modals and no if s, contexts are idle. It will

be the job of the modals to quantify over sets of live possibilities and the job

5 Conventions: p, q, r , . . . range over sentences of L (subject to our constraints on L); i, j, k, . . .

range over worlds; and P , Q, R, . . . range over sets of worlds. And let’s not fuss over whether

what is at stake is the ‘if ’ of English or the ‘if ’ of L; context will disambiguate.

4:5

A. S. Gillies

of contexts to select these sets of worlds over which the modals do their job.

What I want to say can be said in a way that is agnostic about just what kinds

of things contexts are: all I insist is that, given a world, they determine a set

of possibilities that modals at that world quantify over.6 The functions doing

the determining need to be well-behaved.

Given a context c — replete with whatever things contexts are replete

with — an epistemic modal base C determined by it is just what we need:

only if:

C = λi. j : j is compatible with the c-relevant information at i

such bases, we can get by just as well by taking them to go proxy for bona

fide contexts, granting them the honorific “contexts”, and relativizing the

assignment of truth-values to index–modal base pairs directly. So we’ll be

saying just which function ·C,i : L → {0, 1} is, where C represents the

relevant contextual information. No harm comes from that, and it makes for

a prettier view.7

But not just any function from indices to sets of indices will do as a

(proxy) context. So we constrain C’s accordingly, requiring that they are

well-behaved — that is, reflexive and euclidean:

6 The problems and prospects for iffiness are independent of just whose information in a

context — speaker, speaker plus hearer, just the hearer, just the hearer’s picture of what the

speaker intends, and so on — counts for selecting the domains for the modals to do their job,

and whether or not that information is information-at-a-context at all. So let’s keep things

simple here. If you’d rather be reading a paper which has these (and other) complexities at

the forefront, see von Fintel & Gillies 2007, 2008a,b and the references therein.

7 Three comments. First: take ·C to be shorthand for i : ·C,i = 1 . If p’s denotation

0

is invariant across contexts – if pC = pC no matter the choice for C and C 0 – let’s

agree to conserve a bit of (virtual) ink and sometimes omit the superscript: so, e.g., the

if s I am focusing on here have non-modal antecedents, and so those antecedents will be

context-invariant. Second: it’s a little misleading to say that the only context dependence

is dependence on modal bases since we will want to allow the possibility that what worlds

are relevant to an if at a world can vary across contexts. But, in fact, we can (and will)

still leave room for that possibility by constraining how contexts and the sets of if -relevant

possibilities relate. Third: if I had different ambitions, we couldn’t simplify quite like this. If

the interaction at center stage were how if s and quantifiers interact, or if the modals in the

if /modal interaction were deontic, then we’d want our contexts to rightly characterize the

kind of information at stake and taking them to determine sets of possibilities compatible

with what is known would not do. But my ambitions here aren’t different from what they

are.

4:6

Iffiness

i. i ∈ Ci (reflexiveness)

ii. if j ∈ Ci then Ci ⊆ Cj (euclideanness)

C represents a (proper) context only if it is well-behaved.

implies that if j ∈ Ci , then Cj = Ci .

Ci ⊆ Cj . Since C is reflexive, i ∈ Ci and thus i ∈ Cj . Appeal to euclideanness

again: since k ∈ Cj , Cj ⊆ Ck ; but i ∈ Cj and so i ∈ Ck . And once more: since

i ∈ Ck , Ck ⊆ Ci . And now reflexiveness: k ∈ Ck and so k ∈ Ci . (The

inclusion in the other direction just is euclideanness.)

that the live possibilities in Ci do not vary across worlds compatible with C.8

4 Conditional operators

a conditional operator properly so called we thereby say something about

what must be true for a story to be iffy. Taking if to express a bona fide

conditional operator requires, minimally, two things.

Thing one: it requires, in the cases we’ll care about, that if such-and-

such, then thus-and-so doesn’t take a stand on whether such-and-such is

the case and so conditionals like that are typically happiest being uttered

in circumstances in which such-and-such is compatible with the context as

it stands when the conditional is issued. I will take this as a definedness

condition on the semantics for our conditional connective.

with Ci .

8 Given euclideaness, we could get by with different assumptions on C to the same effect.

But reflexiveness is a constraint it makes sense to want since, when we come to them,

epistemic modals — what might or must be in virtue of what is known — in a given context

will quantify over the set of possibilities compatible with that context.

9 The motivating idea isn’t novel (see, e.g., Stalnaker 1975): if it’s ruled out that p in C,

and you want to say something conditional on p in C, then you should be reaching for a

4:7

A. S. Gillies

and consequent. Whether if such-and-such, then thus-and-so is true depends

on whether the relevant worlds at which such-and-such is true bears the

right relationship to the worlds where thus-and-so is true. Take an arbitrary

conditional like if p q at i, in C. And let P and Q be the sets of antecedent

and consequent possibilities so related by the if . Now we need to zoom in on

the relevant worlds in P . So let Di be the set of if -relevant worlds at i. For if

to express a conditional operator properly so called, its denotation must be a

relation R between P -together-with-the-relevant-possibilities-Di and Q.

Di is the set of possibilities relevant for the if at i. Since Di is a function

of i, different worlds may be relevant for one and the same if when evaluated

at different worlds. But, depending on your favorite theory, Di may be a

function of more than just i: it may be a function of i, of C, of p, of q,

or of your kitchen sink. We will return to that shortly. No matter your

favorite theory, we can still ex ante agree to this much: i is always among

the possibilities relevant for an if at i, and only possibilities compatible with

the context are relevant for an if at i. That is: Di is the set of if -relevant

worlds at i only if i ∈ Di and Di ⊆ Ci . The first requirement is a platitude:

the facts at a world are always relevant to whether an indicative at that world

is true. The second means that an indicative in a context is supposed to say

something about the possibilities compatible with that context.

Beyond this, what your favorite theory implementing the operator view

says about Di may vary because what stories say counts as an if -relevant

possibility varies. But what does not vary is that all such stories determine

Di in a pretty straightforward way and so the denotation they assign to if

can be put as a relation between the relevant antecedent possibilities and the

consequent possibilities. Three examples:

Example 1 (variably strict conditional). Suppose your favorite story

takes if to be a variably strict conditional based on some underlying ordering

of possibilities (Stalnaker 1968; Lewis 1973). For every world i, let i be

an ordering of worlds, a relation of comparative similarity (at least) weakly

centered on i. Given a conditional if p q at i in C, you will want to

identify Di with the set of possibilities no more dissimilar than the most

similar p-world to i, restricted by Ci .

Example 2 (strict conditional). Suppose your favorite Lewis-inspired story

counterfactual not an indicative. That can be implemented in any number of ways, including

making it a presupposition of if -clauses (see, e.g., von Fintel 1998a).

4:8

Iffiness

comes not from D.K. but from C.I. You thus take if to be strict implication

(restricted to C). But that, too, can be put in terms of orderings: your ordering

i is universal, treating all worlds the same. Whence it follows that — since

the nearest p-world is the same distance from i as is every world — taking

Di to be the set of possibilities no further from i as the nearest p-world

amounts to taking Di to be the set of all worlds W , restricted by Ci .

Example 3 (material conditional). Suppose you are smitten by truth-tables,

and your favorite incarnation of the operator view is the material conditional

story. Equivalently: you will have a maximally discerning ordering (every

world an island) and take Di to be the set of closest worlds to i simpliciter

according to that ordering. For an if at i you will thus take Di to be {i}.

(For an if at some other world j, even an if with the same antecedent and

consequent as the one at i, take Dj to be j .)

Summing this all up: even before taking a stand on just what relation

between relevant antecedent possibilities and consequent possibilities that if

must express in order to express a conditional operator properly so called,

we know that it must still express such a relation. So let’s insist that we

can put things that way, parametric on just how Di gets picked out and

so parametric on what counts as “relevant” antecedent possibilities and so

parametric on the details of your favorite theory:

truth conditions can be put this way:

relation properly so called. I insist on three minimal constraints on R, for any

P and Q: (i) that Di ∩ P imposes some order on the set of Q’s so related; (ii)

that Q matters to whether the relation holds; and (iii) that — plus or minus

just a bit — only the relationship between the possibilities in Di ∩ P and

the possibilities in Q matter to whether the relation holds. These are not

controversial, but do bear some unpacking.10

First, the order imposed by the antecedent:

10 This general way of characterizing conditionality is not new: both the assumptions and

the results here are inspired by van Benthem’s (1986: §4) investigation of conditionals as

generalized quantifiers. There are, however, differences between his versions and mine.

4:9

A. S. Gillies

i. R(Di ∩ P , P )

ii. R(Di ∩ P , Q) and Q ⊆ S imply R(Di ∩ P , S)

iii. R(Di ∩ P , Q) and R(Di ∩ P , S) imply R(Di ∩ P , Q ∩ S)

R is something (if ·)(·) at i could mean only if it is orderly.

Such R’s are precisely those for which the set of Q’s a Di ∩ P bears it to

form a filter that contains P .11 That is an aesthetic reason for constraining

R this way. Such R’s also jointly characterize the basic conditional logic.12

The relational properties correspond to reflexivity, right upward monotonic-

ity, and conjunction. That is another — only partly aesthetic — reason for

constraining them this way.

Second, R must care about consequents. This is just the requirement that

conditional relations, like quantifiers, be active:

R(Di ∩ P , Q0 )

are some relevant P -possibilities, there have to be some Q’s for which the

relation holds and some for which it doesn’t.

And finally: R is a relation between the sets of possibilities. Thus if R

holds at all between P -plus-the-relevant-possibilities-Di and the consequent-

possibilities Q, R will hold between any two sets of things that play the right

possibility role. Intrinsic properties of worlds don’t count for or against the

relation holding. The idea is simple, the execution harder. That is because

I have allowed you to choose your favorite iffy theory, and what goes into

determining Di depends on your choice.

What is important is this: suppose your favorite story posits some ad-

ditional structure to modal space to find just the right worlds which, when

combined with P , gives the set of worlds relevant for evaluating Q. That

means that your favorite story cares about how P relates to Q but also about

the distribution of the worlds in P compared to the distribution in Q — for

11 It follows straightaway that orderly R’s are fully reflexive in the sense that R(Di ∩ P , Di ∩ P ).

12 See Veltman 1985 for a proof.

4:10

Iffiness

example, perhaps insisting that it is the closest worlds in P to i that must bear

R to Q. If we systematically swap possibilities for possibilities in a way that

preserves the relevant structure, then the conditional relation ought to hold

pre-swapping iff it holds post-swapping. And mutatis mutandis for Di : since

once the posited structure does its job determining Di , then any systematic

swapping of possibilities that leaves the domain untouched should also leave

the conditional relation untouched.13

Where π is such a mapping and P a set of worlds, let π (P ) be the set of

worlds i such that π (j) = i for some j ∈ P . Then:

tional operators to care about both the relationship between P and Q and

also where the satisfying worlds are. If i is the universal ordering then this

requirement reduces to the more familiar quantitative one (restricted to Ci ).

And if Di = {i}, it trivializes.

I am insisting that a story is iffy only if the truth conditions for an indica-

tive if p q at i in Ci can be put as a relation between R between Di ∩ P and

Q. And we have insisted that the relation be constrained in sensible ways — it

must impose some order on sets of consequent possibilities, it must care

about consequents, and it must not care about the intrinsic properties of pos-

sibilities. Each example of an instance of the operator view above — variably

strict, strict, and material conditionals — lives up to these constraints. Still, it

seems like for all we have said it is possible to take the conditional to be true

just in case most/many/several/some/just the right possibilities in Di ∩ P

are in Q. But that is not so: given our constraints, if must mean all.14

13 This is the natural extension of the familiar requirement that quantifiers be quantitative:

for Q to be a quantifier (with domain E) it must be that QE (A, B) iff QE (f (A), f (B)) where

f is an isomorphism of E. Once we have structure to our domain, this will not do. The

more general constraint is then to require that Q be invariant under O-automorphisms of

the domain, where O is the ordering that imposes the posited structure. We can get by with

slightly less: namely, stability under Di -invariant automorphisms.

14 Well, all relevant. This was first proved by van Benthem — see, e.g., van Benthem 1986. The

version I give is simpler (we’re ignoring the infinite case) and a bit more general (slightly

weaker assumptions); the proof is based on one in Veltman 1985, but generalizes it slightly.

4:11

A. S. Gillies

R(Di ∩ P , Q) iff Di ∩ P ⊆ Q.

Suppose — for reductio — that R(Di ∩ P , Q) but Di ∩ P 6⊆ Q. What we’ll

see is: (i) R(Di ∩ P , P ∩ Q); (ii) the world that witnesses that Di ∩ P 6⊆ Q can

be exploited (by quality) to show that no world in P ∩ Q plays a role in

R(Di ∩ P , P ∩ Q) holding — from which it follows that R(Di ∩ P , ); (iii) from

which it follows that Di ∩ P must be empty — a contradiction.

(i): By hypothesis R(Di ∩ P , Q). By order it follows that R(Di ∩ P , P ) and

hence that R(Di ∩ P , P ∩ Q).

(iia): Claim: Di ∩ P ∩ Q 6= . Proof of Claim: Assume otherwise. order

guarantees that R(Di ∩ P , Di ∩ P ). By hypothesis R(Di ∩ P , Q), and so by

order R(Di ∩ P , Di ∩ P ∩ Q). Applying the assumption that Di ∩ P ∩ Q = :

R(Di ∩ P , ). Appeal to order again and we have that R(Di ∩ P , S) for any

S. But then Di ∩ P must be empty (activity), contradicting the assumption

that Di ∩ P È Q and proving the Claim.

(iib): Let j be a witness to Di ∩ P 6⊆ Q. So j ∈ Di ∩ P but j 6∈ Q. Now pick

any confirming instance k — that is, any k ∈ Di ∩ P ∩ Q — and let π be the

mapping that swaps k and j and leaves all else untouched:

• π (j) = k

• π (k) = j

• π (i) = i for every i 6∈ j, k

By (i) R(Di ∩ P , P ∩ Q). Hence, by quality, R(π (Di ∩ P ), π (P ∩ Q)). But π

doesn’t affect Di ∩ P . So: R(Di ∩ P , π (P ∩ Q)). That is: R holds between

Di ∩ P and both P ∩ Q and π (P ∩ Q). Hence — by order — it holds also

between Di ∩ P and their intersection: R(Di ∩ P , (P ∩ Q) ∩ π (P ∩ Q)). But

π (P ∩ Q) = ((P ∩ Q) \ {k}) ∪ j , so their intersection is (P ∩ Q) \ {k}. So:

R(Di ∩P , (P ∩Q)\{k}). Which is to say that k is irrelevant for R’s holding. But

k was any world in Di ∩ P ∩ Q, so finiteness plus order implies R(Di ∩ P , ).

(iii): Appeal to order again: since R(Di ∩ P , ), it holds that for any S

whatever R(Di ∩ P , S). Whence, by activity, it follows that Di ∩ P = . And

that contradicts the assumption that Di ∩ P 6⊆ Q.

The intuitive version is just this: if R holds between Di ∩ P and Q then the

former must be included in the latter. That is because if things didn’t go that

way then the witnessing counterexample world could play the role of any

one of the confirming worlds. But that would mean that confirming worlds

4:12

Iffiness

called could mean. So Di ∩ P must be included in Q after all.

5 Three facts

ditional operator, and that pretty much means that if has to mean all. It

requires that no matter what other operators we might find in its neighbor-

hood. That spells trouble because of three simple Facts about how indicative

conditionals and epistemic modals play together.15

I have lost my marbles. I know that just one of them — Red or Yellow — is

in the box. But I don’t know which. I find myself saying things like:

(2) Red might be in the box and Yellow might be in the box.

So, if Yellow isn’t in the box, then Red must be.

And if Red isn’t in the box, then Yellow must be.

Conjunctions of epistemic modals like Red might be in the box and Yellow

might be in the box are especially useful when the bare prejacents partition

the possibilities compatible with the context. The first fact is simply that if s

are consistent with such conjunctions of modals.

ble with the context. Then the following are consistent:

i. might S1 and might S2

ii. if not S1 , then must S2 ; and if not S2 , then must S1

15 Three notes about the Facts. First: “Facts” may be laying it on a little thick. The judgments

are robust, and the costs high for denying the generalizations as I put them. That’s all true

even if what we may say about them is a matter for disputing. But it does not much matter:

what I really care about is three characteristic seeming facts about if s, mights, and musts

that at first blush look like the kind of thing our best story ought to answer to. So let’s agree

to take them at face value and see where that leads. Later, if your English breaks with mine

or if your old school pride overwhelms, you can deny the Facts or explain them away as your

preferences dictate. Second: the Facts may seem eerily familiar. They are not far removed

from the sorts of examples of the interplay between adverbs of quantification and if -clauses

in Lewis 1975 and Kratzer 1986. That is no coincidence, as we’ll see (briefly) in Section 7.

Third: since the operator view isn’t the only game in town and since predicting the Facts

is something any story (old school or otherwise) must do, we should state the Facts in a

way that is agnostic on the iffy thesis. So the Facts characterize what is true of sentences

in (quasi-)English, not necessarily what is true of their lfs in our regimented intermediate

language.

4:13

A. S. Gillies

I do not know whether Carl made it to the party. But wherever Carl goes,

Lenny is sure to follow. So if Carl is at the party, Lenny must be — Lenny is at

the party, if Carl is. We just glossed an if with a commingling epistemic must

by a bare if with no (overt) modal at all. Thus:

b. If Carl is at the party, then Lenny is at the party.

This pair has the ring of (truth-conditional) equivalence. Fact 2 below records

that. But there are also arguments for thinking that the truth-value of (3a)

should stand and fall with the truth-value of (3b).

For suppose that such if s validate a deduction theorem and modus

ponens, and that must is factive.16 The left-to-right direction: assume that

(3a) is true. And consider the argument:

Carl is at the party.

So: Lenny is at the party.

The first two sentences — intuitively speaking — entail the third. And that is

pushed on us by the assumptions: from the first two sentences we have (by

modus ponens) that Lenny must be at the party, which by factivity entails

Lenny is at the party. Apply the deduction theorem and we have that If Carl

is at the party, then Lenny must be at the party entails If Carl is at the party,

then Lenny is at the party. Since we have assumed that (3a) is true, it follows

that (3b) must be. There are spots to get off this bus to be sure — by denying

either modus ponens or by denying the factivity of must — but those costs

are high.17

The right-to-left direction: assume that (3b) is true and consider:

16 Remember that, for now, we are dealing with properties of sentences of (quasi-)English not

properties of those sentences’ lfs in some regimented language. The argument here isn’t

meant to convince you of Fact 2, it is meant to make some of the costs of denying the data

vivid. Geurts (2005) also notes that bare conditionals and their must-enriched counterparts

are “more or less equivalent”.

17 You have to troll some pretty dark corners of logical space for deniers of modus ponens,

but that’s not true for deniers of the factivity of must. That view has something of mantra

status among linguists (philosophers are surprised to hear that). Mantra or not, it is wrong.

For an all-out attack on it see von Fintel & Gillies 2010. Here is just one sort of consideration:

if must p didn’t entail p (because must is located somewhere below the top of the scale of

epistemic strength), then you’d expect must to combine with only in straightforward ways

the way might can:

4:14

Iffiness

Carl is at the party.

So: Lenny must be at the party.

the deduction theorem that If Carl is at the party, then Lenny is at the party

on its own entails If Carl is at the party, then Lenny must be at the party. So

if (3b) is true so must be (3a): that’s why the former seems to gloss the latter.

Fact 2 (if/must). Conditional sentences like these are true in exactly the

same scenarios:

i. if S1 , then must S2

ii. if S1 , then S2

The glossing that this pattern permits is a nifty trick. But that is only half

the story since if can also co-occur with epistemic might. The interaction

between if and might is different and underwrites a different glossing.

Alas, my team are not likely to win it all this year. It is late in the season

and they have made too many miscues. But they are not quite out of it. If

they win their remaining three games, and the team at the top lose theirs,

my team will be champions. But our last three are against strong teams

and their last three are against cellar dwellers. Still, my spirits are high:

if we win out, we might win it all. Put another way, within the (relevant)

my-team-wins-out possibilities — of which there are some — lies a my-team-

wins-it-all possibility; there is a my-team-wins-out possibility that is a my-

team-wins-it-all possibility. But that is just to say that there are (relevant)

my-team-wins-out-and-wins-it-all possibilities. Maybe not very many, and

maybe not so close, but some.18

Apart from keeping hope alive, the example also illustrates that we can

gloss an indicative with a co-occurring epistemic might by a conjunction

under the scope of might:

b. It might turn out that my team wins out and wins it all.

(i) a. I didn’t say it is raining, I only said it might be raining.

b. #I didn’t say it is raining, I only said it must be raining.

But it doesn’t.

18 For the record: the Cubs. Please don’t bring it up.

4:15

A. S. Gillies

That gloss sounds pretty good. And for good reason: conjunctions that you

would expect to be happy if the truth of (6a) and (6b) could come apart are

not happy at all:

(7) a. #If my team wins out, they might win it all; moreover, they can’t win

out and win it all.

b. #It might turn out that my team wins out and wins it all, and, in

addition there’s no way that if they win out, they might win it all.

That gives us the third Fact about how if s play with modals.19

Fact 3 (if/might). Sentences like these are true in exactly the same scenarios:

i. if S1 , then might S2

ii. it might be that [S1 and S2 ]

It’s now a matter of telling some story, iffy or otherwise, that answers to

these Facts. Old school operator views will have trouble with them; the new

school restrictor view predicts them trivially.

6 Scope matters

The operator view takes if to express an operator, an iffy operator, and the

same iffy operator no matter whether we have a co-occurring epistemic modal

or not and no matter whether the modal is must or might. In cases where

there is a modal, scope issues have to be sorted out. Take a sentence of the

form

19 There is a wrinkle: Fact 3 implies that if S1 , then might S2 is true in just the same spots as if

S2 , then might S1 . Seems odd:

b. If I break a leg, I might jump out the window.

The first is true, the second an overreaction. I intend, for now, to sweep this under the same

rug that we sweep the odd way in which Some smoke and get cancer/Some get cancer and

smoke don’t feel exactly equivalent even though Some is a symmetric quantifier if ever there

was one. (The rug in question seems to be the tense/aspect rug; similar considerations drive

von Fintel’s (1997) discussion of contraposition of bare conditionals.)

4:16

Iffiness

and let S10 (S20 ) be the L-representation for sentence S1 (S2 ), and modal the

L-representation for modal. We have a short menu of options for the relevant

lf for such a sentence — either the narrowscoped (9a) or the widescoped (9b):

(9) a.

modal if S10 S20

b.

If you want to put your lfs in tree form, be my guest: opting for nar-

rowscoping means opting for sisterhood between modal and S2 ; opting for

widescoping means opting for sisterhood between modal and if S1 then S2 .

The trouble for the operator view is that, since if has to express inclusion,

neither choice will do. One choice for scope relations seems ruled out by

consistency (Fact 1), the other by if/must (Fact 2) and if/might (Fact 3).

To put the trouble precisely, we need one more ground rule. Contexts,

we said, have the job of determining the domains the modals quantify over.

Modals, I’ll assume, do their job in the usual way by expressing their usual

quantificational oomph over those domains: must (at i, with respect to C)

acts as a universal quantifier, and might as an existential quantifier, over Ci .

i. might pC,i = 1 iff Ci ∩ pC 6=

ii. must pC,i = 1 iff Ci ⊆ pC

Now suppose we plump for narrowscoping. Then, given the ground rules,

we cannot predict the consistency of the likes of (2) and that means that we

cannot square iffiness with Fact 1. That’s true no matter how you fill in the

particulars of the iffy story.

Here is the narrowscoped analysis of my lost marbles. We have a modal

and two indicatives:

(10) a. Red might be in the box and Yellow might be in the box.

might p ∧ might q

b. If Yellow isn’t in the box, then Red must be.

if ¬q must p

c. If Red isn’t in the box, then Yellow must be.

if ¬p must q

Any good story has to allow that the bundle of if s in (10b) and (10c) is

consistent with the conjunction in (10a). But, assuming narrowscoping,

4:17

A. S. Gillies

taking a stand on what counts as the set of if -relevant worlds — seems to be

beyond what can be delivered by any version of the operator view.

(10a) is true. Then the (narrowscoped) sentences in (10) can’t all be true.

Proof. Suppose otherwise — that the regimented formulas in L are all true at

a live possibility, say i, with respect to C. Just one of my marbles is in the

box. So any world in Ci is either a p-world or a q-world, but not both; C is

well-behaved, so i ∈ Ci . That leaves two cases.

case 1: i ∈ ¬q. By hypothesis if ¬q must p C,i = 1, and so Di ∩

¬qC ⊆ must pC . Since i ∈ Di , it then follows that i ∈ must pC — which

is to say must pC,i = 1. Thus Ci has only p-worlds in it. But that is at

odds with the second conjunct of (10a): that might q is true at i guarantees a

q-world, hence a ¬p-world, in Ci .

case 2: i ∈ ¬p. By hypothesis if ¬p must q C,i = 1, and so Di ∩

¬pC ⊆ must qC . Since i ∈ Di , it then follows that i ∈ must qC — which

is to say must qC,i = 1. Thus Ci has only q-worlds in it. But that is at odds

with the first conjunct of (10a): that might p is true at i guarantees a p-world,

hence a ¬q-world, in Ci .

Narrowscoping has the virtue of taking plain and simple lfs to represent

indicatives with apparently epistemic modalized consequents. But it has the

vice of not squaring with consistency. This is true no matter the particulars

of your favorite version of the operator view.20

So suppose instead that co-occurring modals scope over the if -constructions

in which they occur. Now it is the generalizations if/must and if/might

that cause trouble. Again, that’s true no matter how Di is chosen and so

no matter what counts as an if -relevant possibility and so no matter what

conditional operator we say if expresses.

Here is a widescope analysis of the key examples (3) and (6):

must if p q

b. If Carl is at the party, then Lenny is at the party.

if p q

20 Thus by supplying how your favorite version of the operator view says Di is determined, you

can use this proof to show how that story (assuming narrowscoping) departs from Fact 1.

4:18

Iffiness

might if p q

b. It might turn out that my team wins out and wins it all.

might (p ∧ q)

The facts are that must if p q ≈ if p q and that might if p q ≈

might (p ∧ q). What we need is a semantics for the conditional connec-

tive (if ·)(·) that can predict both patterns. But paths that might lead to one

pretty reliably lead away from the other.

So far I have insisted that i is always among the relevant worlds to an

if at i (i ∈ Di ) and also that only worlds compatible with the context are

relevant (Di ⊆ Ci ). Here I am in good company. But perhaps there is even

more interaction between domains of if -relevant worlds and contexts.

Some theories say that there can be no difference in domains for condi-

tionals between worlds compatible with the context, others disagree:

i. A semantics is egalitarian iff if whenever j ∈ Ci then Dj = Di .

ii. A semantics is chauvinistic iff it is not egalitarian.

ble with a context. That means that distinctions between worlds made by

D’s — this world is relevant, that one isn’t — are unaffected when those dis-

tinctions are made from behind the veil of ignorance (we don’t know which

world compatible with C is the actual world). Chauvinistic theories allow

differences from behind the veil to matter to what possibilities get selected

for domainhood, and thus allow that a possibility j ∈ Ci may determine a

different set of relevant possibilities than does i. Once we have agreed that,

for any i, Di selects from the worlds compatible with C and must include i,

it is a further question whether we want to be egalitarians or chauvinists.21

21 The history of the conditional is littered with chauvinists. The material conditional analysis

is chauvinistic. It says that the only possibility relevant for the truth of an if at i in C is

i itself. And similarly for an if at j: only j matters there. Thus, except in the odd case

where the context rules out uncertainty altogether, we will have that Dj 6= Di , for any choice

of i and j compatible with C. A variably strict conditional analysis, based on a family

of orderings (one for each world), is chauvinistic if we do not impose an “absoluteness”

condition — the requirement that orderings around any two worlds be the same. (Lewis

(1973: §6) discusses absoluteness in the process of characterizing the V -logics.) What to say

about absoluteness is optional and so there is room for agnosticism about chauvinism.

Stalnaker’s (1975) treatment of indicatives is not officially agnostic about chauvinism, but

4:19

A. S. Gillies

of the chauvinistic theory are compatible with there being a (p ∧ ¬q)-world

in Ci but not in Di , no such story will predict if/must. The data say that

bare indicatives and their must-enriched counterparts are true in the same

scenarios. But chauvinism plus widescoping guarantees that the domain

the if quantifies over is properly included in the domain its must-enriched

counterpart quantifies over. Thus the former says something strictly weaker

than — true in strictly more spots than — the latter. That is at odds with Fact

2:

widescoped (11b) is true but (11a) isn’t. Thus chauvinism plus widescoping

can’t explain Fact 2.

Di does not, contain j. Then every possibility in Di ∩ p is in q and the

plain if is true (at i, in C): if p q C,i = 1. But not the widescoped must-

every possibility in Dj ∩ p is a possibility in q. Thus if p q C,j = 0

and so it is not true that the plain if is true at every world in Ci and so

must if p q C,i = 0.

Again, this is true no matter how we fill in the particulars of the operator

view. If we widescope the modals, and the story is chauvinistic, it will not

square with Fact 2.

Given widescoping, egalitarianism fares no better. But here it is

if/might (Fact 3) that causes trouble. This time the issue is triviality: must-

enriched if s are true iff their might-enriched counterparts are.

Here is why. First, egalitarianism implies that Di covers Ci :

By egalitarianism, Dj = Di . But we know that j ∈ Dj . Contradiction.

that is only because he requires that i induce a total order that is centered pointwise on

i, and that rules against absoluteness. But the pragmatic mechanisms he develops there

are agnostic on the chauvinism question — what he says about how the context constrains

selection functions is compatible with both egalitarianism and chauvinism. I myself see

little reason to go for chauvinism.

4:20

Iffiness

implies that the underlying ordering is centered not pointwise on i but

setwise on the worlds compatible with C. So egalitarianism implies that

if is really a strict conditional. That’s true whether Di is derived from some

underlying ordering or not: if , might and must quantify over the same

domain of possibilities, and an if is true at i iff all of the antecedent worlds

in that domain are consequent worlds.22 That means that an if at i (in C)

is true iff the corresponding material conditional is true at every possibility

compatible with C. And that means that such an if is true at i iff the material

conditional, widescoped by must, is true at i.23

But from this degree of fit between Di and Ci it follows straightaway that

no two possibilities compatible with C can differ over an if issued in C. There

is solidarity among if s; they stand and fall together:

is, iff for every such j, if p q C,j = 1.

Given widescoping, any story with this equivalence will have a hard time

saying why conditionals like (12a) seem to be true iff modalized conjunctions

like (12b) are and so will have trouble with if/might. That is because, given

the usual story for the modals (Definition 6.1), we get triviality:

Thus widescoping plus egalitarianism implies that must if p q is true

iff might(p ∧ q) is. Not even Cubs fans fall for that.

22 Strictness makes it easy to understand why negating a bare conditional sounds so much

like saying the counterexample might obtain. For more on context-dependent strictness

(of different flavors) see, e.g., Veltman 1985, von Fintel 1998a, 2001, and Gillies 2004, 2007,

2009.

23 Thus, given well-behavedness (Definition 3.2), explaining Fact 2 is easy for widescoping

egalitarians: if p q is equivalent to must (p ⊃ q) which, given well-behavedness, is

equivalent to must must (p ⊃ q). And that, in turn, is equivalent to must if p q .

4:21

A. S. Gillies

in Ci iff it is true everywhere in Ci . And it is true everywhere in Ci just in case

must if p q C,i = 1. That trivializes rather than explains Fact 3.

Fact 3.

Iffiness requires conditionals to have a structure that does not play nice

with modals. That’s because no way of resolving the relative scopes will

work.24 What causes the trouble is that the operator view requires if to mean

all. But the Facts don’t seem to allow that. If we widescope, then sometimes

that seems all right — if the modal in question happens to have universal

quantificational force. But when the modal is existential, if looks more like

conjunction than inclusion. And narrowscoping seems no better, rendering

all manner of coherent bits of discourse inconsistent.

That is pretty bad news for the operator view. True, we could save

iffiness by denying some Fact or other. (With defenders like that who needs

detractors?) Adding insult to injury: the Facts were chosen not at random but

with an eye to the competition. They are Facts that the new school restrictor

view predicts so easily hardly anyone has noticed.

7 Iffiness lost

constructions (under adverbs of quantification) are not properly iffy, that the

if in

24 Could we go for widescoping must-enriched indicatives and narrowscoping might-enriched

indicatives? For all we’ve said so far: yes. But that strategy faces an uphill battle. It is ad

hoc, three times over. First because there is no good reason to think we should settle for

anything less than a uniform story. Second because it is not obvious what it says we should

do when we consider ways in which the modal might be embedded. What if the modal is

can’t (a possibility modal scoped under negation) or needn’t (a universal under negation)?

b. If the gardener didn’t do it, the culprit needn’t be the butler.

Do we widescope or narrowscope these? What principled story is there that predicts, rather

than stipulates, that the first is widescoped and the second narrowscoped? Third because

as soon as we consider epistemic modals that lie between the existential might and the

universal must — like probably and unlikely — it is doomed to failure anyway.

4:22

Iffiness

Always

(13) Sometimes if a man owns a donkey, he beats it.

Never

but instead acts as a non-connective whose only job is to mark an argument-

place for the adverb of quantification. The relevant structure is not some

Q-adverb scoped over a conditional nor some conditional with a Q-adverb

in its consequent, he said, but instead something like

The job of the if -clause in (13) is merely to restrict the domain over which

the adverb (unselectively) quantifies, and allegedly that restricting job is a

job that cannot be done by treating if as a conditional connective with a

conditional operator as its meaning. If Q-adverb is universal, maybe an iffy

if will work; but if it is existential, then conjunction does better. I want to set

the issue about adverbial (and adnomial, for that matter) quantifiers aside for

two reasons. First because I doubt the allegation sticks. But that is another

argument for another day.25 And second because it will do us good to focus

on simple cases.

Still, the trouble for the operator view that is center stage here does look

quite a lot like the problem Lewis pointed out. We have to make room for

interaction between if -clauses and the domains our modals quantify over.

But that interaction is tricky. That is because it looks impossible to assign

if the same conditional meaning — thereby taking its contribution to be an

iffy one — in all of our examples. Indeed, when the modal is universal a con-

ditional relation looks good; but when the modal is existential, conjunction

looks better. This is pretty much the same trouble Lewis saw for if s occurring

under adverbs of quantification, and led him to conclude that such if s do not

express operators at all (and a fortiori not conditional operators).26 Just as

with adverbial quantifiers, there is a fast and easy solution to the problem

if we get rid of the old school idea that if is a conditional connective and

plump instead for anti-iffiness. The most forceful way of putting the anti-iffy

thesis is Kratzer’s (1986: 11):

25 There are ways to get the restricting job done after all. The operator-based stories in, e.g.,

Belnap 1970, Dekker 2001, and von Fintel & Iatridou 2003 all manage.

26 For recent and more thorough-going defenses of if s-as-quantifier-restrictors see, e.g., Kratzer

1981, 1986 and von Fintel 1998b. But see Higginbotham 2003 for a dissenting view.

4:23

A. S. Gillies

mistake. There is no two-place “if. . . then” connective in the

logical forms for natural languages. “If”-clauses are devices for

restricting the domains of various operators.

The thesis is that the relevant structure for the conditionals at issue here

is not some modal scoped over a conditional nor some conditional with a

modal in its consequent, but is instead something like

The job of the if -clause is to restrict the domain over which the modal

quantifies. So instead of searching for a conditional operator properly so

called that if contributes whether it commingles with a modal or not, we

search for an operator for if to restrict. And, for indicative conditionals,

we do not have to search far: the operators are (possibly covert) epistemic

modals.27

So it is the modals, not the if s, that take center stage. They have logical

forms along the lines of modal(p)(q), with the usual quantificational force:

i. if defined, might (p)(q)C,i = 1 iff (Ci ∩ p) ∩ qC 6=

ii. if defined, must (p)(q)C,i = 1 iff (Ci ∩ p) ⊆ qC

This plus two assumptions gets us the now-standard and familiar restrictor

view. It easily accounts for consistency (Fact 1), if/must (Fact 2), and

if/might (Fact 3).

First assumption: assume that when there is no if -clause and so no

restrictor is explicit — as in Blue might be in the box or Yellow must be in

the box — the first argument in the lf of the modal is filled by your favorite

tautology (>). In those cases there is nothing to choose between an analysis

that follows our earlier Definition 6.1 and an analysis that follows Definition

27 Officially, our intermediate language now also goes in for a change. L had one-place modals

might and must and a two-place connective (if ·)(·). That won’t do to represent the restrictor

view. Instead, we need the two-place modals might (·)(·) and must (·)(·) and have no need

for a special conditional connective that expresses a conditional operator.

4:24

Iffiness

Second assumption: assume that the job of if -clauses is to make a (non-

trivial) restrictor explicit. If there is no overt modal — as in a bare condi-

tional — the if restricts a covert must. Collecting the pieces:

intermediate language. Then:

i. A sentence of the form if S1 then S2 has lf:

a. modal(S10 )(R 0 ) if S20 = modal R 0

b. must (S10 )(S20 ) otherwise

ii. Truth conditions as in Definition 7.1

restrictors in the example:

(17) a. Red might be in the box and Yellow might be in the box.

might (>)(p) ∧ might (>)(q)

b. If Yellow isn’t in the box, then Red must be.

must (¬q)(p)

c. If Red isn’t in the box, then Yellow must be.

must (¬p)(q)

It’s modals all the way down. And the modals can all be true together.

inition 7.2). And suppose, in C, that (17a) is a partitioning modal. Then the

sentences in (17) can all be true together.

Proof. I am in i and there are just two worlds compatible with the facts I

have, i and j. The first is a (p ∧ ¬q)-world, the second a (q ∧ ¬p)-world.

The restrictors in (17a) are trivial, so it is true at i iff Ci has a p-world in

it and a q-world in it; i witnesses the first conjunct, j the second. The

restricting if -clause of (17b) makes sure that the must ends up quantifying

only over the ¬q-worlds compatible with C: (17b) is true at i iff all of the

worlds Ci ∩ ¬q are p-worlds. And the only one, i, is. Similarly for the must

in (17c): it quantifies over the ¬p-worlds in Ci , checking to see that they are

all q-worlds.

It is just as easy to square this picture with if/must (Fact 2) and if/might

(Fact 3). Here are the examples with their new school lfs:

4:25

A. S. Gillies

must (p)(q)

b. If Carl is at the party, then Lenny is at the party.

must (p)(q)

(19) a. If my team wins out, they might win it all.

might (p)(q)

b. It might turn out that my team wins out and wins it all.

might (>)(p ∧ q)

(Definition 7.2). Then:

i. If S1 , then S2 ≈ If S1 , then must S2

ii. If S1 , then might S2 ≈ might [S1 and S2 ]

Proof. anti-iffiness assigns the same lf to a bare conditional like (18b) and

its must-enriched counterpart (18a): must (p)(q). It would thus be hard, and

pretty undesirable, for their truth conditions to come apart. That explains

if/must.

Now consider the if -as-restrictor analysis of the sort of examples behind

if/might in (19). If (19b) is true at i in C then Ci has a (p ∧ q)-world in it.

But then that same world must be in Ci ∩ p. It is a q-world, and that will

witness the truth of (19a) at i. Going the other direction: if (19a) is true at

i in C, then there are some q-worlds in Ci ∩ p. Any one of those will do

as a (p ∧ q)-world in Ci , and that is sufficient for (19b) to be true at i. That

explains if/might.

These explanations are easy. And, given the trouble for the operator

view, it looks like the only game in town is to say that if doesn’t express an

operator and so not an iffy operator. That stings.

8 Iffiness regained

and the domains our modals quantify over. That is an interaction that seems

hard to square with the thesis that if is a binary connective with a conditional

meaning if we assume that it has the same meaning in each of the cases we

care about here.

4:26

Iffiness

it must say that if p q at i in C expresses some relation R between Di ∩ P

and Q, where Di ∩ P is the set of (relevant) worlds where the antecedent is

true and Q the set of worlds where the consequent is true. That is all right.

But we unthinkingly assumed that the context relevant for figuring out what

these sets of worlds are must always be C just because that was the context

as it stood when the if was issued. That was a mistake. Setting it straight

sets the record straight for old school iffiness.

The Ramsey test — the schoolyard version, anyway — is a test for when an

indicative conditional is acceptable given your beliefs. It says that if p q

is acceptable in belief state B iff q is acceptable in the derived or subordinate

state B-plus-the-information-that-p. You zoom in on the portion of B where

p is true and see whether q throughout that region. But our job is to say

something about the linguistically encoded meanings of indicatives not to

dole out epistemic advice. Still, the Ramsey test (plus or minus just a bit) can

be turned into a strict conditional story about truth-conditions.

Here’s how (in three easy steps). Step one: sentences get truth-values at

worlds in contexts. So swap C’s for B’s. Step two: embrace egalitarianism.

The worlds compatible with the context are the if -relevant worlds. These

first two steps give us a strict conditional analysis of indicatives, requiring

that if p q is true at i in C iff all the p-possibilities in Ci are possibilities

at which q is true. But truth depends on both index and context. Question:

What context is relevant for checking to see whether q is true at these

p-possibilities? Answer: The Ramseyan derived or subordinate context C-

plus-the-information-that-p, or C + p for short. That’s step three.

The Ramsey test invites us to add the information carried by the an-

tecedent to the contextually relevant stock of information C and check the

fate of the consequent. What we fans of iffiness overlooked was that this

assigns two jobs to if -clauses, and we only paid attention to one of them.

One job is the index-shifting job. The if -clause tells us to shift to various

alternative indices — the antecedent-possibilities compatible with C — to see

whether the consequent is true at them. This job is familiar and most ver-

sions of the operator view do a fine job tending to it. But there is another

job. When we add the information carried by the antecedent to C we also

add to the context relevant for figuring out whether the consequent is true.

That is the context-shifting job. The if -clause tells us to shift to an alternative

derived or subordinate state to see whether the consequent is true. We fans

of old school iffiness made the mistake of only making sure that the first job

4:27

A. S. Gillies

got done.

So far this isn’t a story about the meaning of if (much less an iffy one). It

is a blueprint for how to construct a semantics that gives a uniform and iffy

meaning to if s whether or not those if s mix and mingle with other operators.

To construct a story using it we need to take a stand on what it means to add

the information carried by an antecedent to the contextually relevant stock

of information. Taking that stand depends on the aspirations of the theory

since different constructions may depend on different sorts of contextually

available information and there is every reason to think that augmenting

information of different sorts goes by different rules. But our aspirations are

pretty modest here: how indicatives interact with epistemic modals. So we

can opt for an equally simple stand on what it means to add information to a

context.

Even before getting all the details laid out, we can see how the doubly

shifty behavior of if -clauses will be able to predict what needs predicting

about how indicatives and epistemic modals interact. The difference between

interpreting q against the backdrop of the prior context C and against the

backdrop of C + p is a difference that makes no difference if q has no context

sensitive bits in it. No wonder we missed it! But if q does have context

sensitive bits in it — like might or must, whose semantic value depends

non-trivially on C — then this is a difference that makes all the difference.

For example: consider a modal like must q. The contexts C and C + p may

well determine different sets of possibilities. Since must q depends exactly

on whether that set of possibilities has only q-worlds in it, we then get

a difference. Thus if must q is the consequent of an indicative, context-

shiftiness matters.

Here is the simplest way of constructing a semantics around the blueprint:

i. if defined, if p q C,i = 1 iff Ci ∩ pC ⊆ qC+p

tecedent and consequent worlds and that relation lives up to all the con-

straints we insisted on earlier. Hence if means all. And it expresses that no

matter whether it scopes over a universal modal or an existential modal or

no modal at all in the consequent. It is also doubly shifty. It is index-shifty

since the truth of if p q at i depends on the truth of the constituent q

4:28

Iffiness

at worlds other than i. It is context-shifty since the truth of if p q in C

depends on the truth of the constituent q in contexts other than C.

The if /modal interactions that were such trouble were only trouble be-

cause we forgot to keep track of the context-shifting job of if -clauses. And

doing that, even in the simple context-shifting in Definition 8.1, is enough to

make iffiness sit better with the Facts.

I know that just one of my marbles is in the box — either Red or Yel-

low — but do not know which it is. Narrowscope the modals. Then all of

these can be true together:

(20) a. Red might be in the box and Yellow might be in the box.

might p ∧ might q

b. If Yellow isn’t in the box, then Red must be.

if ¬q must p

c. If Red isn’t in the box, then Yellow must be.

if ¬p must q

(Definition 8.1). Suppose p and q partition the possibilities in C. The (nar-

rowscoped) sentences in (20) can all be true together in C.

Proof. Here is why. Suppose — for concreteness and without loss of general-

ity — that C contains just two worlds: i, a (p ∧ ¬q)-world and j, a (q ∧ ¬p)-

world. So (20a) is true at i.

Now take (20b). It is true at i in C, given iffiness + shiftiness, iff all the

possibilities in Ci ∩ ¬q are possibilities that must pC+¬q maps to true.

Thus we have to see whether the following holds:

see whether or not must pC+¬q,i = 1. Equivalently: the if is true at i iff

(C + ¬q)i ⊆ p. And since i is in fact a p-world the if is true at i in C. And

mutatis mutandis for (20c).

The operator view isn’t at odds with consistency after all. It is also easy

to predict if/must (Fact 2) and if/might (Fact 3). Here are the narrowscoped

analyses of the motivating examples:

if p must q

4:29

A. S. Gillies

if p q

(22) a. If my team wins out, they might win it all.

if p might q

b. It might turn out that my team wins out and wins it all.

might (p ∧ q)

ness (Definition 8.1). Then:

i. If S1 , then S2 ≈ If S1 , then must S2

ii. If S1 , then might S2 ≈ might [S1 and S2 ]

it’s easy to see that when (21a) is true so is (21b). Now suppose (21b) is

true at i (with respect to C). Then all of the p-worlds in Ci are q-worlds

(Ci ∩ p ⊆ qC+p ). But if they are all worlds at which q is true, then i — and

so, given well-behavedness, every world in Ci — is equally a world at which

must q is true (with respect to C + p). And so (21a) is true, at i in C, if (21b)

is. That’s just what if/must requires.

if/might is no different. The noteworthy part is seeing how iffiness +

shiftiness predicts that when (22a) is true then so is (22b). Note that (22a) is

true at i (with respect to C) just in case all of the p-worlds in Ci are worlds

where might q, evaluated in C + p, is true. By well-behavedness we have

that:

if j, k ∈ Ci ∩ p then (C + p)j = (C + p)k = Ci ∩ p

Since might q is an existential modal, if it is true with respect to C + p it

must also be true with respect to C. (Updating contexts with + is monotone.)

Whence it follows that the if with a commingling might is true at i iff among

the p-worlds in Ci lies a q-world. And any such q-world will do to witness

the truth of might (p ∧ q) at i in C. That’s just what if/might requires.

hard to square with old school views that take if to express a conditional

operator. No way of sorting out the relative scopes between the modals and

the conditional seemed right. But that is because we mistakenly thought that

antecedents of conditionals only have one job to do. They shift the index at

which we check to see if the consequent is true. But they also contribute to the

4:30

Iffiness

both their index-shifting and context-shifting jobs we can safely narrowscope

and there is no special problem posed for old school iffiness. The if in

if p modal q means the same iffy thing — inclusion! — saying that all the

(relevant) worlds where p is true are worlds where modal q is true. That’s

so whether the oopmh of modal is universal or existential or null and does

nothing to get in the way of explaining the Facts. That is something we fans

of iffiness ought to dig.28

9 What is at stake

Given the success of anti-iffiness why bother with iffiness at all? A fair

question. Given the context-shifting I’m advocating for fans of iffiness, what’s

the difference between old school and new school? Another fair question. I

owe some answers.

I make three (not wholly unrelated) claims. First, even if the shifty version

of the operator view and the basic version of the restrictor view covered the

same ground, there is still reason to explore the operator view. Second, the

views have different conceptual roots and different allegiances. Third, the

views don’t cover the same ground. I need to argue for each of these.

Suppose that — at least when it comes to accounting for data about the

sorts of constructions at issue here — there’s nothing to choose between

iffiness + shiftiness and anti-iffiness. Even under that assumption there

is reason to take this version of the operator view seriously. That is because

it is important to set the record straight. Maybe you don’t like skyhooks,

Chuck Taylors, and conditional connectives expressing iffy operators in your

lfs. It is important to know that whatever your reasons, it can’t be because

iffiness can’t be squared with the Facts about how if s and modals interact.

The Ramsey test intuition leads naturally to a story according to which

if expresses a bona fide conditional operator that captures the restricting

behavior of if -clauses. Thus the restricting behavior of if -clauses can be a

28 Before I said that I wanted to ignore issues about how this version of the operator view can

meet Lewis’s challenge about the ways if -clauses and adverbs of quantification interact,

saving that argument for another day. I want to stick to that (it really is an argument for

another day), but the general idea is straightforward. First, adjust the kinds of information

represented by a context so that we can sensibly quantify over individuals and the events

they participate in. Second, allow that quantificational domains can be restricted by material

in if -clauses — those domains play the role of the subordinate or derived context. Adverbs

of quantification appear under the conditional and have their usual denotations.

4:31

A. S. Gillies

part of, rather than an obstacle to, their expressing something iffy. That is

cool.

But what’s the real difference between the views? One view says we have

no conditional operator, just a complicated modal with a slot for a restrictor.

The other says we have a conditional operator but that its antecedent shifts

the context thereby acting like a restrictor. Tomato/tomăto, right? Wrong!

Here is one way of seeing that. Consider three indicatives:

b. If Scorpio succeeds, then the end is near.

c. If Jimbo is in detention, then Nelson might be.

Compare (23a) and (23c). The restrictor view says these have different modals

and different arguments for each of the slots in those modals. So, apart from

the fact that each is a modal expression of some flavor or other, there is

nothing much in common between the two. They are as different as Some

students smoke and All dogs bark: each is a quantificational expression of

some flavor or other. The operator view says something different. It says that,

despite their different antecedents and different consequents, they still share

a common iffy core: there is a conditional connective in common between

them and it contributes the same thing to each of the sentences it occurs in.

Or compare the must-enriched (23a) with its bare counterpart (23b). The

restrictor view says the bare indicative just is the must-enriched version

in disguise. That is how it predicts if/must (Fact 2). It thus treats bare

indicatives as a special case, dealt with by positing a covert and inaudible

necessity modal. Maybe there is reason to posit such an operator, and an

independent and principled reason to posit the necessity modal instead of an

existential one or some different modal with different quantificational force,

and maybe those reasons outweigh the cost of the positing. The operator

view adopts a very different stance here and that is what I want to point out.

It says that bare indicatives like (23b) are ordinary conditionals and their

counterparts with must-ed consequents like (23a) are ordinary conditionals

that happen to have must in their consequents. No special cases, no positing

of inaudible operators, and if/must comes out as a prediction not as a

stipulation. None of this is a knock-down argument for or against either of

the views — it’s not meant to be — but it does highlight their difference in

worldview.

All of this has been under the assumption that both the doubly shifty iffy

view and the anti-iffy restrictor view cover the same ground about how if s

4:32

Iffiness

and modals interact. But that’s not quite right.29 So far we have only worried

about how it is that a conditional sentence manages to express what might be

if such-and-such or how it manages to express what must be if such-and-such.

But conditional information can be more economically expressed than that.

We can just as well have a single conditional sentence that expresses what

must be and what might be if such-and-such.

A case in point: although I have lost my marbles, I know that some of

them — at least one of Red, Yellow, and Blue — are in the box. In fact I know

a bit more. I know that Yellow and Blue are in the same spot and so that Red

can’t be elsewhere if Yellow isn’t in the box. Another example: arriving at

the party, I’m not sure who’s there and who isn’t. I do know that Lenny goes

wherever Carl goes (but sometimes Lenny goes alone), but Monty never goes

where Lenny goes.

(24) a. If Yellow is in the box, then Red might be and Blue must be.

b. If Lenny is at the party, then Carl might be but Monty isn’t.

These are not exotic, each conditional is a true thing to say in the circum-

stances, and there is space for the iffy view and incarnations of the anti-iffy

restrictor view to differ on the truth conditions they assign to conditionals

like these — and so the two views can’t be stylistic variants.

Here is the issue: (24a) and (24b) have glosses:

(25) a. If Yellow is in the box, then Red might be and if Yellow is the box,

then Blue must be.

29 There are reasons independent of interaction with epistemic modals to think that anti-

iffiness, in its purest if -only-restricts form, can’t be the whole story. If it were, and if -clauses

and when-clauses have the same restricting behavior, then we wouldn’t expect differences in

cases like this:

(i) a. If the Cubs get good pitching and timely hitting after the break, they might win

it all.

b. When the Cubs get good pitching and timely hitting after the break, they might

win it all.

But we do detect a difference. I can say something true-if-hopeful with (ia). But (ib) passes

optimistic and heads straight for delusional. It’s hard to see where to locate the differ-

ence — whether it’s semantic or pragmatic — if the semantic contribution of if and when is

purely to mark the restrictor slot for the common operator might. (Lewis (1975) noticed

that sometimes a restricting if is odd when its corresponding restricting when is fine. But

he labeled these differences “stylistic variations”.) Some arguments along these lines are

pushed by von Fintel & Iatridou (2003).

4:33

A. S. Gillies

Party, then Monty isn’t.

tion of simple conditionals. The simple incarnation of the anti-iffy restrictor

view in Definition 7.2 says we do one thing when a conditional consequent

has an overt modal, and do another when there isn’t. But we didn’t say how

out in the open a modal must be to count as overt. Depending on what we

say, we can get divergence between the operator view and the restrictor view

for cases like these.

Assume — for now — that a modal is overt in a sentence iff it is the con-

nective featured in (the lf of) that sentence.30 Under that assumption, it

is then easy to see that the two stories come apart: iffiness + shiftiness

predicts that (24a) is equivalent to (25a) and so true (in the relevant context)

and anti-iffiness does not. That is because the consequent of (24a) isn’t

decorated with a leading modal (it’s a conjunction of modals), and so we have

to posit one. So (24a) gets an L-representation like

But the truth conditions of (26) do not match the truth conditions of (25a)

and so do not match the truth conditions of the original (24a): (26) is false in

the context as we set it up even though both (24a) and (25a) are true.

Now assume, instead, that a modal is overt iff it is pronounced — no

matter how arbitrarily deeply embedded. Then (26) isn’t the right anti-iffy

lf for (24a). Instead, we get something more sensible: (24a) and (25a) have

the same lf. There’s no in-principle problem with that.31 But what about

conditionals like (24b)? We don’t want to posit a must that outscopes the

pronounced might. So we have to posit a narrowscoped one. In order to

get the posited modal appropriately restricted — so that (24b) comes out

equivalent to (25b) — we have two obvious options. Option (i): Argue that

conditionals like those in (24) are not single conditionals at all, that they are

really conjunctions of two simple modals. That way there is no difference

at all between the conditionals in (24) and the glosses in (25). Option (ii):

Enrich our intermediate language to allow for explicit domain-restricting

variables, and provide a mechanism for the inheriting of those restrictions

30 In this sense, a modal is any (non-equivalent) stack of musts, mights, and negations.

31 Though it doesn’t come free: it puts strain on the process of assigning formulas of L to serve

as the lfs of sentences of natural language.

4:34

Iffiness

across intervening operators like conjunction. Both options are open, and

party line proponents of anti-iffiness are free to pursue them. But they do

require work. Option (i) posits movement we’d not like to have to posit, treats

conditionals with apparent conjoined consequents as yet another special

case, and describes rather than explains why the conditionals in (24) are

glossable by those in (25). Option (ii) requires more expressive resources

for L than we thought necessary and requires something over and above

the anti-iffy story as it stands to say when and how domain restriction gets

inherited over distance and across intervening operators. That’s not an

argument against this option but a description of it.32

But none of that really matters: my point was that iffiness + shiftiness

and anti-iffiness aren’t notational variants. And they are not: the iffy story

takes conditionals like (24) in perfect stride. No special cases, no positing

of inaudible operators, no stress on the parser in assigning formulas of

L to serve as the lfs of conditional sentences, no movement. We get the

right truth conditions, and we get as a prediction not a stipulation that the

conditionals in (24) are equivalent to those in (25).

Not every fan of old school iffiness will want to follow me this far. But there

is a cost to cutting their trip short since they must then deny or explain away

one of the Facts. Iffiness, they’ll no doubt point out, is not without its own

costs: the price of iffiness is shiftiness twice over.

I reply that there are costs and then there are costs. Embracing context-

shiftiness may be a cost, but I want to point out that it is not a new cost: it

makes the analysis here a broadly dynamic semantic account of indicatives.33

So shiftiness is a cost you may already be willing to bear. I want to (briefly)

point out how it is that this shiftiness amounts to a four-fold dynamic

perspective on modals and conditionals.

32 Something in the neighborhood of Option (ii) is developed (though not with an eye to

conjoined consequents) in von Fintel (1994). For a recent discussion see Rawlins 2008.

33 The general idea that consequents are evaluated in a subordinate or derived context is

standard in dynamic semantics — see, e.g., dynamic treatments of donkey anaphora (Groe-

nendijk & Stokhof 1991) or dynamic treatments of presupposition projection in conditional

antecedents and consequents (Heim 1992; Beaver 1999) or dynamic treatments of counter-

factuals (Veltman 2005; von Fintel 2001; Gillies 2007). But exploiting a derived context isn’t

quite a litmus test for dynamics since that is something shared by a lot of Ramsey-inspired

accounts, whether or not they count as ‘dynamic’.

4:35

A. S. Gillies

The version of the operator view I’m advocating for fans of iffiness takes

the truth of an indicative (at an index, in a context) to be doubly shifty.

That doubly shifty behavior makes the semantics dynamic in the sense that

interpretation both affects and is affected by the values of contextually

filled parameters. Whether if p q is true at i in C depends on C; the

indicative can be true at i for some choices of C and false at i for others. So

interpretation is context-dependent. Whether if p q is true at i in C also

depends on the subordinate context C + p. Interpreting the indicative in C

affects — temporarily — the context for interpreting some subparts of it. So

interpretation is also context-affecting.

This analysis is also dynamic in a second sense. It makes certain sentences

unstable — the truth-value a sentence gets in a context C is not a stable or

persistent property since it can have a different truth-value in a context C 0

that contains properly more information.

0

i. p is t-persistent iff pC,i = 1 and C 0 ⊆ C imply pC ,i = 1

0

ii. p is f -persistent iff pC,i = 0 and C 0 ⊆ C imply pC ,i = 0

p is persistent iff it is both t- and f -persistent.

The boolean bits are, of course, both t- and f -persistent and so persistent full-

stop. But not the modals: might, being existential, is f - but not t-persistent;

must goes the other way. And since if is a strict conditional, equivalent to a

necessity modal scoped over a material conditional, its pattern of persistence

is just like that for must.34

These two senses in which the story is dynamic are two sides of the same

coin. Together they explain how it is that the narrowscoped conditionals

if ¬p must q and if ¬q must p are consistent with the partitioning

modals in might p ∧ might q. From the fact that i ∈ if ¬p must q C and

i ∈ ¬pC it does not follow that i ∈ must qC . Indeed, with my marbles

lost, this is sure to be false at i in C since might p is true. What is true at i is

that — in the subordinate or derived context C + ¬q — must q is true. That

is allowed because must isn’t f -persistent. But that is not at odds with the

might claim. And mutatis mutandis for the other if .

34 This pattern makes the treatment of indicatives here similar in some respects to Veltman’s

(1985) data semantic treatment of indicatives. But there are important differences between

the two stories. Here’s one: if p might q is data semantically equivalent to if p q .

That won’t do given Fact 3.

4:36

Iffiness

So we have dynamics twice over. But so far none of this looks quite

like what is usually called “dynamic semantics”. In that sense of dynamics

meaning isn’t associated with truth conditions or propositions but with

context change potentials, effects on relevant states of information. Take

an information state s to be a set of worlds, and say that what a sentence

means is how its lf updates information states. That assigns to sentences

the semantic type usually reserved for programs and recipes; they express

relations between states — intuitively, the set of pairs of states such that

executing the program in the first state terminates in the second. We can

think of all sentences in this way, thereby treating them as instructions for

changing information states. Thus: the meaning of a sentence p is how it

changes an arbitrary information state. We might put that by saying the

denotation [p] applied to s results in state s 0 ; in post-fix notation s[p] = s 0 .35

Now say that p is true in s iff s[p] = s, for then the information p carries is

already present in s.36

Having gone this far, we can make good on the Ramsey test this way:

s[ if p q ] = i ∈ s : q is true in s[p]

Some programs have as their main point to make such-and-such the case;

others to see whether such-and-such. Programs of the latter type are tests

and they either return their input state (if such-and-such) or fail (otherwise).

That is the kind of program Definition 10.2 says if is.37 It says an if tests

s to see whether the consequent is true in s[p]. But — in good Ramseyian

spirit — s[p] is just the subordinate context got by hypothetically adding p

to s. Truth isn’t persistent here, either. That is because a state may pass a

test posed by an existential (Are there p-possibilities?) and yet have

35 For the fragment without if s the updates are as you would expect (Veltman 1996). For the

if -free fragment of L, define [·] as follows:

i. s[patomic ] = i ∈ s : i(patomic ) = 1

ii. s[¬p] = s \ s[p]

iii. s[p ∧ q] = s[p][q]

iv. s[might p] = i ∈ s : s[p] 6=

It then follows straightaway that — for the if - and modal-free fragment — s[p] = s ∩ p.

36 This generalizes the plain vanilla story about satisfaction we were taught when first learning

propositional logic: as the story usually goes, a boolean p is true relative to a set of

possibilities s iff all the possibilities in s are in p. But that is equivalent to saying that

adding p to the information in s produces no change: s ∩ p = s iff s ⊆ p.

37 See, e.g., Gillies 2004.

4:37

A. S. Gillies

And dually for the universal must and if .

An iffy account like the one in Definition 10.2 is dynamic in this third

sense. But the doubly-shifty operator view iffiness + shiftiness doesn’t

look much like a dynamic semantics in that sense. That analysis looks static,

assigning truth-conditions to indicatives at a world in a context. And we can

recover propositions if the mood strikes us. But the two stories are in fact

the same: lack of persistence plus the global behavior of the modals and

if s in the doubly shifty story make it equivalent to a dynamic story of the

indicative that dispenses with the assignment of propositions of the normal

sort from the beginning.38 Even though I told the story about truth-values

assigned at contexts and indices, it is equivalent to a story about changing

information states. So we have dynamics thrice over.

We have gotten this far, and found ways to predict the Facts about how

indicatives and epistemic modals interact, without taking a stand on when

one sentence entails another. (Having said nothing about entailment we

couldn’t have said anything about modus ponens either.) Entailment is

usually taken to be preservation of truth at a point of evaluation: iff q is

true at a point if p1 , . . . , pn are all true at that point do the latter entail

the former. Not necessarily so in a dynamic semantics. Often enough,

what is important and what an entailment relation ought to capture is not

preservation of truth but preservation of information flow — what must be

true after adding the information carried by the premises. That is an update-

to-test entailment relation.39 Similarly, since the story as I have told it turns

out to be a dynamic one, we ought to expect a larger menu of options for

what it takes for a collection of premises to entail a conclusion. That is

because truth is sensitive to both context and index and contexts can shift

about as we move from the pi ’s to q. To make sure entailment is sensitive

to those shifts, we shouldn’t merely require preservation of truth-at-a-point.

Instead, just as in a more explicitly dynamic set-up, we want to augment the

38 The standard benchmark for dynamics is whether the interpretation function [·] is either

non-introspective (Can it be that s[p] 6⊆ s?) or non-continuous (Can it be that s[p] 6=

S

i∈s {i} [p]?). In set-ups like the one in Definition 10.2, the behavior of indicatives is not

continuous. See Gillies 2009 for the details on how the iffy story as I have put it is equivalent

to a more directly dynamically iffy semantics, and how the right notions of entailment

coincide in the two set-ups.

39 For more about the space of options for entailment relations in dynamic semantics see van

Benthem 1996 and Veltman 1996. Update-to-test entailment is a lot like Stalnaker’s (1975)

notion of reasonable inference.

4:38

Iffiness

(C + p1 ) + · · · + pn ). And that corresponds exactly to the dynamic update-to-

test entailment relation over our language L. That is the fourth way in which

the semantics here is dynamic.

So the doubly shifty behavior of indicatives reflects this four-fold dynamic

perspective. That is useful to know for two reasons. First because it makes

clear what the costs of iffiness are and it makes clear that some of those costs

are not completely new. Second because it makes clear that the dynamic

perspective on modals and conditionals is broader than we may have thought.

The senses in which the story here reflects a dynamic perspective are familiar

senses, but the mechanisms of that iffy story aren’t the usual mechanisms in

a dynamic semantics. The semantics traffics in things like truth conditions

and propositions, not in things like support or programs or context change

potentials. So nothing in the dynamic perspective on modals and conditionals

requires the latter sort of semantic trafficking at the expense of the former

sort. It’s broader than that.

11 An iffy upshot

shifty strict conditional over sets of live possibilities. It assigns two jobs to

if -clauses. They have the index-shifting job of shifting the point at which

we check for a consequent’s truth, but they also have the context-shifting

job of shifting the context relevant for deciding at such a point whether a

consequent is true. That is how if can mean the same iffy thing no matter

whether the consequent is modal, and no matter the quantificational force of

that modal, without running afoul of the Facts.

We began with the iffy thesis that conditional information is information

of a conditional. Then we showed that — given some broad constraints for

what counts as a conditional operator properly so called — apparently no

operator view could be squared with the Facts since no way of sorting out

the scopes would work. But all of that assumed that antecedents have no

context-shifting role. So if you want to plump for an incarnation of the

operator view, and you want to square your story with the Facts, you had

better allow for context-shifting.

It’s easy to get the idea that how if s and operators like epistemic modals

interact is an argument for anti-iffiness. But since some iffy stories — this

one! — can account for that data, that’s not right. Nothing about shiftiness

4:39

A. S. Gillies

view that co-opts context-shifting to account for the way that conditionals

with conjoined consequents turn out equivalent to conjunctions of simpler

conditionals. So if you want to toe the anti-iffy line, you might want to allow

for context-shifting anyway. Of course, that makes toeing the line a bit like

not toeing the line.

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Anthony S. Gillies

Department of Philosophy

Rutgers University

thony@rci.rutgers.edu

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Semantics & Pragmatics Volume 3, Article 9: 1–74, 2010

doi: 10.3765/sp.3.9

The role of mood∗

Lisa Matthewson

University of British Columbia

Accepted 2010-03-25 / Final Version Received 2010-05-31 / Published 2010-08-06

distinct environments, with a range of semantic effects, including weakening

an imperative to a polite request, turning a question into an uncertainty

statement, and creating an ignorance free relative. The St’át’imcets subjunc-

tive also differs from Indo-European subjunctives in that it is not selected by

attitude verbs. In this paper I account for the St’át’imcets subjunctive using

Portner’s (1997) proposal that moods restrict the conversational background

of a governing modal. I argue that the St’át’imcets subjunctive restricts the

conversational background of a governing modal, but in a way which obli-

gatorily weakens the modal’s force. This obligatory modal weakening — not

found with Indo-European non-indicative moods — correlates with the fact

that St’át’imcets modals differ from Indo-European modals along the same

dimension. While Indo-European modals typically lexically encode quantifi-

cational force, but leave conversational background to context, St’át’imcets

modals encode conversational background, but leave quantificational force

to context (Matthewson, Rullmann & Davis 2007, Rullmann, Matthewson &

Davis 2008).

free relatives, attitude verbs, Salish

∗ I am very grateful to St’át’imcets consultants Carl Alexander, Gertrude Ned, Laura Thevarge,

Rose Agnes Whitley and the late Beverley Frank. Thanks to David Beaver, Henry Davis,

Peter Jacobs, the members of the UBC Pragmatics Research Group (Patrick Littell, Meagan

Louie, Scott Mackie, Tyler Peterson, Amélia Reis Silva, Hotze Rullmann and Ryan Waldie),

three anonymous reviewers, and audiences at New York University, the University of British

Columbia and the 44th International Conference on Salish and Neighbouring Languages

for helpful feedback and discussion. Thanks to Tyler Peterson for helping prepare the

manuscript for publication. This research is supported by SSHRC grants #410-2005-0875

and #410-2007-1046.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Non-

Commercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0).

Lisa Matthewson

1 Introduction

quantify over possible worlds, and subjunctive moods, agreement paradigms

which usually require a licensing modal element. The contrast is illustrated

for Italian in (1)–(2). (1) contains modal auxiliaries; (2) contains subjunctive

mood agreement which is licensed by the matrix attitude verb.

must+3sg+pres+ind be in.the office

‘He must be in the office.’ (Italian; Palmer 2006: 102)

b. puo essere nell’ ufficio

may+3sg+pres+ind be in.the office

‘He may be in the office.’ (Italian; Palmer 2006: 102)

I.doubt that learn+3sg+pres+sbjn

‘I doubt that he’s learning.’ (Italian; Palmer 2006: 117)

Matthewson et al. 2007, Rullmann et al. 2008, and Davis, Matthewson & Rull-

mann 2009) has established the existence of a set of modals in this language,

which differ in their semantics from those of Indo-European. Indo-European

modals typically lexically encode distinctions of quantificational force, but

leave conversational background (in the sense of Kratzer 1981, 1991) up to

context. (1a), for example, unambiguously expresses necessity, while (1b)

unambiguously expresses possibility. However, both modals allow either

epistemic or deontic interpretations, depending on context. In contrast,

modals in St’át’imcets lexically encode conversational background, but leave

quantificational force up to context. (3a), for example, is unambiguously epis-

temic, but is compatible with either a necessity or a possibility interpretation,

depending on context. (3b) is unambiguously deontic, but similarly allows

differing quantificational strengths. See Matthewson et al. 2007, Rullmann

et al. 2008, and Davis et al. 2009 for extensive discussion.1

1 All St’át’imcets data are from primary fieldwork unless otherwise noted. Data are presented

in the practical orthography of the language developed by Jan van Eijk; see van Eijk &

Williams 1981. Abbreviations: adhort: adhortative, caus: causative, circ: circumstantial

modal, col: collective, comp: complementizer, cond: conditional, conj: conjunctive,

counter: counter to expectations, deic: deictic, deon: deontic, demon: demonstrative, det:

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

be=epis stat-stop in=det=house-3sg.poss=exis

s=Philomena

nom=Philomena

‘Philomena must / might be in her house.’ only epistemic

b. lán=lhkacw=ka áts’x-en ti=kwtámts-sw=a

already=2sg.subj=deon see-dir det=husband-2sg.poss=exis

‘You must / can / may see your husband now.’ only deontic

modal system is given in Table 1:

quantificational conversational

force background

St’át’imcets context lexical

mood. I argue that St’át’imcets possesses a subjunctive mood, and show that

it induces a range of apparently disparate semantic effects, depending on the

construction in which it appears. One example of the use of the subjunctive

is given in (4): it weakens the force of a deontic modal proposition (in a sense

to be made precise below). Other uses include turning imperatives into polite

requests, and turning questions into statements of uncertainty (cf. van Eijk

1997 and Davis 2006).

sleep=3indic=deon det=child=exis

‘The child should sleep.’

determiner, dir: directive transitivizer, ds: different subject, epis: epistemic, erg: ergative,

exis: assertion of existence, foc: focus, fut: future, impf: imperfective, inch: inchoative,

indic: indicative, infer: inferential evidential, irr: irrealis, loc: locative, mid: middle

intransitive, nom: nominalizer, obj: object, prt: particle, pass: passive, perc.evid: perceived

evidence, pl: plural, poss: possessive, prep: preposition, real: realis, red: redirective

applicative, rem.past: remote past, sbjn: subjunctive, sg: singular, sim: simultaneous, stat:

stative, temp.deic: temporal deictic, ynq: yes-no question. The symbol - marks an affix

boundary and = marks a clitic boundary.

9:3

Lisa Matthewson

b. guy’t=ás=ka ti=sk’úk’wm’it=a

sleep=3sbjn=deon det=child=exis

‘I hope the child sleeps.’

I will show that the St’át’imcets subjunctive differs markedly from Indo-

European subjunctives, both in the environments in which it is licensed, and

in its semantic effects. I propose an analysis of the St’át’imcets subjunctive

which adopts insights put forward by Portner (1997, 2003). For Portner,

moods in various Indo-European languages place restrictions on the con-

versational background of a governing modal. I argue that the St’át’imcets

subjunctive mood can be analyzed within exactly this framework, with the

twist that in St’át’imcets, the restriction the subjunctive places on the gov-

erning modal obligatorily weakens the force of the proposition expressed.

This has an interesting consequence. While we can account for the

St’át’imcets subjunctive using the same theoretical tools as for Indo-European,

at a functional level the two languages are using their mood systems to

achieve quite different effects. In particular, St’át’imcets uses its mood sys-

tem to restrict modal force — precisely what this language does not restrict

via its lexical modals. At a functional level, then, we find the same kind of

cross-linguistic variation in the domain of mood as we do with modals. This

idea is illustrated in the simplified typology in Table 2:

quant. force convers. background

St’át’imcets moods modals

These results suggest that while individual items in the realm of mood and

modality lexically encode different aspects of meaning, the systems as a

whole have very similar expressive power.

The structure of the paper: Section 2 introduces the St’át’imcets subjunc-

tive data. I first illustrate the nine different uses of the relevant agreement

paradigm, and then argue that this agreement paradigm is a subjunctive,

rather than an irrealis mood. Section 3 shows that the St’át’imcets sub-

junctive is not amenable to existing analyses of more familiar languages.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

Section 4 reviews the basic framework adopted, that of Portner (1997), and

Section 5 provides initial arguments for adopting a Portner-style approach

for St’át’imcets. Section 6 presents the formal analysis, and Section 7 applies

the analysis to a range of uses of the subjunctive. Section 8 concludes and

raises some issues for future research.

There are different subject agreement paradigms for transitive vs. intransi-

tive predicates. For intransitive predicates, there are three distinct subject

paradigms, one of which is glossed as ‘subjunctive’ by van Eijk (1997) and

Davis (2006).2

indicative subjunctive

indicative nominalized

2sg tsút=kacw s=tsút=su tsút=acw

3sg tsut=Ø s=tsút=s tsút=as

1pl tsút=kalh s=tsút=kalh tsút=at

2pl tsút=kal’ap s=tsút=lap tsút=al’ap

3pl tsút=wit s=tsút=i tsút=wit=as

‘to say’ (adapted from van Eijk 1997: 146)

With transitive predicates, the situation is similar, except that there are

four separate paradigms, one of which is subjunctive.3,4

2 The cognate forms are often called ‘conjunctive’ in other Salish languages, primarily in order

to disambiguate the abbreviations for ‘subject’ and ‘subjunctive’. See for example Kroeber

1999.

3 The traditional terms for the first two columns are ‘indicative’ and ‘nominalized’ respectively.

The nominalized endings are identical to nominal possessive endings, and are glossed as

‘poss’ in the data. The choice between these first two paradigms is syntactically governed: the

so-called ‘indicative’ surfaces in matrix clauses and relative clauses, while the nominalized

paradigm appears in subordinate clauses. Both these sets contrast semantically, in all

syntactic environments, with the subjunctive, hence my overall categorization of the first

two paradigms as ‘indicative’.

4 See Kroeber 1999 and Davis 2000 for justification of the analysis of subject inflection

9:5

Lisa Matthewson

junctive, and in subsection 2.2 I argue that these paradigms more closely

approximate familiar subjunctives, rather than irrealis moods.

at first glance are not easily unifiable. I illustrate all of them here. First,

the subjunctive functions to turns a plain assertion into a wish (Davis 2006:

chapter 24).5

foc nom=Lémya7 det=first=exis

‘Lémya7 is first.’

b. nílh=as s=Lémya7 ku=kéla7

foc=3sbjn nom=Lémya7 det=first

‘May Lémya7 be first.’

good=3sbjn det=birthday=2sg.poss

‘May your birthday be good!’

b. ámh=as ku=s=wá7=su!

good=3sbjn det=nom=be=2sg.poss

‘Best wishes!’ [‘May your being be good.’] (Davis 2006: ch. 24)

This use of the subjunctive is very restricted (see van Eijk 1997: 147).

Minimal pairs cannot usually be constructed for ordinary assertions, as

shown in (7)–(9).

rain today

‘It’s raining today.’

b. *kwís=as lhkúnsa

rain=3sbjn today

intended: ‘May it rain today.’

assumed here. I do not provide the transitive paradigms, as subject markers vary based on

the person and number of the object and the table is excessively large. See van Eijk 1997 and

Davis 2006 for details.

5 The determiner alternation between (5a) and (5b) (ti=. . . =a vs. ku=) is predictable, but

irrelevant for current concerns. See Matthewson 1998, 1999 for discussion.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

good det=day=exis

‘It is a good day.’

b. *ámh=as ti=sq’ít=a

good=3sbjn det=day=exis

intended: ‘May it be a good day.’

sleep det=child=exis

‘The child is sleeping.’

b. *guy’t=ás ti=sk’úk’wm’ita

sleep=3sbjn det=child=exis

intended: ‘I hope the child sleeps.’

in a cleft structure, as in (5), or in conventionalized wishes, as in (6). I return

to this issue below.

The more usual case of the subjunctive creating a wish-statement is when

it co-occurs with the deontic modal ka, as in (10)–(11).

already=deon=demon=prt impf fix-dir-3erg

‘He should have fixed that already.’

b. plan=as=ká=tí7=t’u7 wa7 máys-n-as

already=3sbjn=deon=demon=prt impf fix-dir-3erg

‘I wish he had fixed that already.’

sleep=deon det=child=exis

‘The child should sleep.’

b. gúy’t=ás=ka ti=sk’úk’wm’it=a

sleep=3sbjn=deon det=child=exis

‘I hope the child sleeps.’

When used with the deontic modal ka, in addition to the ‘wish’ interpre-

tation shown in (10)–(11), the subjunctive can also render a ‘pretend to be ...’

interpretation.6

6 The data in (12) are from the Upper St’át’imcets dialect; in Lower St’át’imcets, (12a) is

corrected to (i), which has the subjunctive but lacks the deontic modal. This independent

9:7

Lisa Matthewson

owl=2sg.sbjn=deon fly deic and animal.noise-mid

‘Pretend to be an owl: fly around and hoot.’

(Davis 2006: chapter 24)

b. snu=hás=ka ku=skícza7

2sg.emph=3sbjn=deon det=mother

‘Pretend to be the mother.’

(Whitley, Davis, Matthewson & Frank (editors) no date)

the subjunctive weakens an imperative to a polite request (Davis 2006:

chapter 24). In each of (13)–(15), the subjunctive imperative in (b) is construed

as ‘more polite’ than the plain imperative in (a). The subjunctive is particularly

common in negative requests, as in (15).

deic=adhort comp=put.down-dir=2pl.sbjn

‘Just put it over here!’

b. lts7á=has=malh lh=kits-in’=ál’ap

deic=3sbjn=adhort comp=put.down-dir=2pl.sbjn

‘Could you put it down here?’/‘You may as well put it down over

here.’7 (adapted from Davis 2006: chapter 24)

go=adhort deic Vancouver=exis

‘You’d better go to Vancouver.’

b. nás=acw=malh áku7 pankúph=a

go=2sg.sbjn=adhort deic Vancouver=exis

‘You could go to Vancouver.’

pronoun construction is argued by Thoma (2007) to be a concealed cleft. I return to this

issue below.

2sg.emph=3sbjn det=owl

‘Pretend to be an owl.’

7 The third person subjunctive ending appears here because the structure is bi-clausal,

involving a third-person impersonal main predicate: ‘It is here that you could put it down.’

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

neg det=nom=break-dir-2sg.erg det=window=exis

‘Don’t break the window.’

b. cw7áoz=as kw=s=sek’w-en-ácw ta=nk’wanústen’=a

neg=3sbjn det=nom=break-dir-2sg.erg det=window=exis

‘Don’t break the window.’

helps to turn wh-questions into statements of uncertainty or wondering.

(16) a. kanem=lhkán=k’a

do.what=1sg.indic=infer

‘What happened to me?’

b. kanem=án=k’a

do.what=1sg.sbjn=infer

‘I don’t know what happened to me.’ / ‘I wonder what I’m doing.’8

do.what=2sg.indic=fut again

‘What are you going to be doing later?’

b. kanem=ácw=kelh múta7

do.what=2sg.sbjn=fut again

‘I wonder what you are going to do again.’ (van Eijk 1997: 215)

where=fut comp=going.to=2sg.sbjn go

‘Where will you go?’

b. nká7=as=kelh lh=cúz’=acw nas

where=3sbjn=fut comp=going.to=2sg.sbjn go

‘Wherever will you go?’ / ‘I wonder where you are going to go

now.’ (adapted from Davis 2006: chapter 24)

The same effect arises with yes-no questions. In combination with the evi-

dential k’a or a future modal, the subjunctive also turns these into statements

of uncertainty which are often translated using ‘maybe’ or ‘I wonder’.

8 For expository reasons, k’a was glossed as ‘epistemic’ in (3a) above, but from now on will be

glossed as ‘inferential’. Matthewson et al. (2007) analyze k’a as an epistemic modal which

carries a presupposition that there is inferential evidence for the claim.

9:9

Lisa Matthewson

already=ynq take-dir-3erg

ni=n-s-mets-cál=a

det.abs=1sg.poss-nom-write-act=exis

‘Has she already got my letter?’

b. lan=as=há=k’a kwán-ens-as

already=3sbjn=ynq=infer take-dir-3erg

ni=n-s-mets-cál=a

det.abs=1sg.poss-nom-write-act=exis

‘I wonder if she’s already got my letter.’/’I don’t know if she got

my letter or not.’

(20) wa7=as=há=k’a tsicw

impf=3sbjn=ynq=infer get.there

i=n-sésq’wez’=a, cw7aoz kw=en

det.pl=1sg.poss-younger.sibling=exis neg det=1sg.poss

zwát-en

know-dir

‘Perhaps my younger siblings went along, I don’t know.’

(Matthewson 2005: 265)

In combination with a wh-indefinite and the evidential k’a, the subjunctive

creates free relatives with an ‘ignorance/free choice’ reading; see Davis 2006

for discussion.

(21) a. qwatsáts=t’u7 múta7 súxwast áku7, t’ak aylh áku7,

leave=prt again go.downhill deic go then deic

nílh=k’a s=npzán-as

foc=infer nom=meet(dir)-3erg

k’a=lh=swát=as=k’a káti7 ku=npzán-as

infer=comp=who=3sbjn=infer deic det=meet(dir)-3erg

‘So he set off downhill again, went down, and then he met who-

ever he met.’ (van Eijk & Williams 1981: 66, cited in Davis 2009)

b. o, púpen’=lhkan [ta=stam’=as=á=k’a]

oh find=1sg.indic [det=what=3sbjn=exis=infer]

‘Oh, I’ve found something or other.’

(Unpublished story by “Bill” Edwards, cited in Davis 2009)

When used in combination with the scalar particle t’u7, the subjunctive

creates a statement translated as ‘might as well’ or ‘may as well’.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

impf=1sg.indic=prt impf work-mid

‘I am just working.’

b. wá7=an=t’u7 wa7 k’wzús-em

impf=1sg.sbjn=prt impf work-mid

‘I might as well stay and work.’

(23) a. wá7=lhkacw=t’u7 lts7a lhkúnsa ku=sgáp

be=2sg.indic=prt deic now det=evening

‘You are staying here for the night.’

b. wá7=acw=t’u7 lts7a lhkúnsa ku=sgáp

be=2sg.sbjn=prt deic now det=evening

‘You may as well stay here for the night.’

And finally, in combination with a wh-word and the scalar particle t’u7,

the subjunctive creates free relatives with a universal / indifference reading.

(24) a. wa7 táw-em ki=smán’c=a, ns7á7z’-em

impf sell-mid det.col=tobacco=exis trade-mid

ku=stám’=as=t’u7

det=what=3sbjn=prt

‘He was selling tobacco, trading it for whatever . . . ’

(van Eijk & Williams 1981: 74, cited in Davis 2009)

b. wa7 kwám=wit ku=káopi, ku=súkwa, ku=saplín,

impf take(mid)=3pl det=coffee det=sugar det=flour

[stám’=as=t’u7 cw7aoz

[what=3sbjn=prt neg

kw=s=ka-ríp-s-tum’-a

det=nom=circ-grow-caus-1pl.erg-circ

l=ti=tmícw-lhkalh=a]

on=det=land-1pl.poss=exis]

‘They got coffee, sugar, flour, whatever we couldn’t grow on our

land. . . ’ (Matthewson 2005: 105, cited in Davis 2009)

c. [stám’=as=t’u7 káti7 i=wá7

[what=3sbjn=prt deic det.pl=impf

ka-k’ac-s-twítas-a i=n-slalíl’tem=a]

circ-dry-caus-3pl.erg-circ det.pl=1sg.poss-parents=exis]

wa7 ts’áqw-an’-em lh=as sútik

impf eat-dir-1pl.erg comp(impf)=3sbjn winter

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Lisa Matthewson

(Matthewson 2005: 141, cited in Davis 2009)

deontic modal deontic necessity/possibility wish

deontic modal deontic necessity/possibility ‘pretend’

imperative command polite request

wh-question + question uncertainty/wondering

evidential/future

yes-no question + question uncertainty/wondering

evidential/future

wh-word + evidential question ignorance free relative

scalar particle t’u7 ‘just/still’ ‘might as well’

wh-word + scalar N/A indifference free relative

particle t’u7

These are all the cases where the subjunctive has a semantic effect; in

the next sub-section we will also see some cases where the subjunctive is

obligatory and semantically redundant. I will not aim to account for the entire

panoply of subjunctive effects in one paper. However, the analysis I offer

will explain the first seven uses, setting aside for future research only the

two uses which involve the particle t’u7. See Section 8 for some speculative

comments about the subjunctive in combination with t’u7.

In this sub-section I justify the use of the term ‘subjunctive’ for the subject

agreements being investigated. The choice of terminology is intended to

reflect the fact that the St’át’imcets mood patterns with Indo-European sub-

junctives, rather than with Amerindian irrealis moods, in several respects.

However, we will see below that the St’át’imcets subjunctive also differs

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

Palmer (2006) observes that there is a broad geographical typology, such

that European languages often encode an indicative/subjunctive distinc-

tion, while Amerindian and Papuan languages often encode a realis/irrealis

distinction. A typical irrealis-marking system is illustrated in (25).

pig sim-run.out-3sg+ds+real 3pl hit-3pl+rem.past

‘They killed the pig as it ran out.’ (Amele; Palmer 2006: 5)

b. ho bu-busal-eb age qo-qag-an

pig sim-run.out-3sg+ds+irr 3pl hit-3pl-fut

‘They will kill the pig as it runs out.’ (Amele; Palmer 2006: 5)

and the realis/irrealis distinction are ‘basically the same’. The core function

of both a subjunctive and an irrealis is to encode ‘non-assertion’.10 However,

there are differences in distribution and in syntactic functions.

First, Palmer observes that subjunctive is not marked independently of

other inflectional categories such as person and number. Instead, there is

typically a full subjunctive paradigm. On the other hand, irrealis is often

marked by a single element. In this respect, the St’át’imcets mood patterns

like a subjunctive; see Table 3 above.

Second, in main clauses, irrealis marking is often used for questions,

futures and denials; this is not the case for main clause subjunctives. In this

respect also, the St’át’imcets mood patterns like a subjunctive. It is not used

to mark questions, futures or denials. (26)–(28) all have indicative marking.

9 This raises a terminological issue which arises in many areas of grammar. Should we apply

terms which were invented for European languages to similar — but not identical — categories

in other languages? For example, should we say ‘The perfect / definite determiner /

subjunctive in language X differs semantically from its English counterpart’, or should we

say ‘Language X lacks a perfect / definite determiner / subjunctive’, because it lacks an

element with the exact semantics of the English categories? I adopt the former approach

here, as I think it leads to productive cross-linguistic comparison, and because it suggests

that the traditional terms do not represent primitive sets of properties, but rather potentially

decomposable ones.

10 Palmer does not provide a definition of ‘non-assertion’. He observes that common reasons

why a proposition is not asserted are because the speaker doubts its veracity, because the

proposition is unrealized, or because it is presupposed (Palmer 2006: 3). See Section 3 below

for discussion.

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Lisa Matthewson

arrive=3indic=ynq det=nom=Josie

‘Did Josie arrive?’

arrive=3indic=fut det=nom=Josie

‘Josie will arrive.’

neg det=nom=arrive=3poss nom=Josie

‘Josie didn’t arrive.’

only in subordinate clauses, while irrealis marking is often obligatory and

redundant in main clauses. Here again, the St’át’imcets mood patterns like a

subjunctive. It is obligatory and redundant only in three cases. The first is

when embedded under the complementizer lh=. lh= is glossed by van Eijk

(1997) as ‘hypothetical’, and analyzed by Davis (2006) as a complementizer

which introduces subjunctive clauses, including if -clauses, as in (29a) and

(29b), temporal adjuncts (29b), locative adjuncts (29c), and complements to

the evidential k’a when this is used as a (focused) adverb (29d).

comp=neg*(=3sbjn)=irr det=nom=sleep=2sg.poss

lán=ka=tu7 wa7 xzum i=n’wt’ústen-sw=a

already=irr=then impf big det.pl=eye-2sg.poss=exis

‘If you hadn’t slept, your eyes would have been big already.’

(van Eijk & Williams 1981: 12)

b. xwáyt=wit=ka lh=wa7=wit*(=ás)=t’u7 qyax

many.people.die=3pl=irr comp=be=3pl*(=3sbjn)=prt drunk

múta7 tqálk’-em lh=w*(=as) qyáx=wit

and drive-mid comp=impf*(=3sbjn) drunk=3pl

‘They would die if they got drunk and drove when they were

drunk.’ (Matthewson 2005: 367)

c. lts7a lh=wa7*(=as) qwál’qwel’t

deic comp=impf*(=3sbjn) hurt

‘It is here that it is hurting.’

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

maybe comp=two*(=3sbjn) day

ka-láx-s-as-a n-skícez7=a

circ-remember-caus-3erg-circ 1sg.poss-mother=exis

na=s-7ílacw-em-s=a

det=nom-soak-mid-3poss=exis

ta=n-qéqtsek=a

det=1sg.poss-older.brother=exis

‘Maybe two days later, my mother remembered the fish my

brother had been soaking.’

(Matthewson 2005: 152; cited in Davis 2006: chapter 23)11

redundant is when embedded under the complementizer i= ‘when’, as in (30).

i= has a similar distribution to lh=, but is restricted to past-time contexts.

See van Eijk 1997: 235-6 and Davis 2006: chapter 27 for discussion.

when.past=first=1pl.sbjn get.there see-dir-1pl.erg

i=cw7ít=a tsitcw

det=many=exis house

‘When we first got there, we saw lots of houses.’

(Matthewson 2005: 74)

b. wá7=lhkan lexláx-s i=kwís*(=as)

impf=1sg.indic remember-caus when.past=fall*(=3sbjn)

na=n-sésq’wez’=a, s=Harold Peter

det.abs=1sg.poss-younger.sibling=exis nom=Harold Peter

‘I remember when my little brother was born, Harold Peter.’

(Matthewson 2005: 354-5)

11 Incidentally, Davis (2006: chapter 23) observes that ‘two or more k’a lh= clauses strung

together form the closest equivalent in [St’át’imcets] of [English] “either...or”.’ An example is

given in (i).

(i) k’a lh=xw7utsin-qín’=as, k’a lh=tsilkst-qín’=as=kelh

maybe comp=four-animal=3sbjn maybe comp=five-animal=3sbjn=fut

‘It’ll either be a four point or a five point buck.’ (Davis 2006: chapter 23)

As Davis implies, St’át’imcets lacks any lexical item which renders logical disjunction, and

constructions like (i), although used to translate English ‘or’, are literally two ‘maybe’-clauses

strung together.

9:15

Lisa Matthewson

with the perceived-evidence evidential =an’. =an’ is analyzed by Matthewson

et al. (2007) as an epistemic modal which is defined only if the speaker has

perceived indirect evidence for the prejacent proposition.

(31) a. *táyt=kacw=an’

hungry=2sg.indic=perc.evid

‘You must be hungry.’

b. táyt=acw=an’

hungry=2sg.sbjn=perc.evid

‘You must be hungry.’

foc=3indic=perc.evid nom=Sylvia det=do(caus)-top

‘Apparently it was Sylvia who did it.’

b. nílh=as=an’ s=Sylvia ku=xílh-tal’i

foc=3sbjn=perc.evid nom=Sylvia det=do(caus)-top

‘Apparently it was Sylvia who did it.’

(Matthewson et al. 2007: 208)

where the subjunctive is obligatory in a matrix clause. I assume that the

subjunctive lacks semantic import here, as an otherwise very similar evi-

dential lákw7a does not allow the subjunctive in cases parallel to (31)–(32)

(Matthewson 2010, to appear).

The conclusion is that St’át’imcets, in spite of being an Amerindian lan-

guage, has a mood which patterns, at least morpho-syntactically, like a

subjunctive rather than an irrealis. This fits with how van Eijk (1997) and

Davis (2000, 2006) gloss the relevant forms. However, we will see in the next

section that the St’át’imcets subjunctive differs semantically in interesting

ways from European subjunctives.

The vast majority of formal research on the subjunctive deals with Indo-

European. In languages such as the Romance languages, the subjunctive

mood is used for wishes, fears, speculations, doubts, obligations, reports,

unrealized events, or presupposed propositions. Some examples are provided

in (33)–(34).

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

I.believe that learn+3sg+pres+indic

‘I believe that he is learning.’ (Spanish; Palmer 2006: 5)

b. dudo que aprenda

I.doubt that learn+3sg+pres+sbjn

‘I doubt that he’s learning.’ (Spanish; Palmer 2006: 5)

can+1sg+pres+sbjn come also I

‘If only I could come too.’ (Italian; Palmer 2006: 109)

subjunctive. I cannot do justice to the full array of proposals in the literature;

the goal is to provide enough background to establish that the St’át’imcets

subjunctive is not amenable to a range of existing approaches.

One pervasive line of thought is that subjunctive encodes a general se-

mantic contribution of ‘non-assertion’ (Bolinger 1968, Terrell & Hooper 1974,

Hooper 1975, Klein 1975, Farkas 1992, Lunn 1995, Palmer 2006, Haverkate

2002, Panzeri 2003, among others). One recent formal proposal in this line

is that of Farkas (2003). Farkas argues that there is a correlation between

indicative mood and complements which have assertive context change po-

tential relative to the embedded environment. Assertive context change for a

matrix clause is defined as in (35); the context set of worlds Wc is narrowed.

c + φ is assertive iff Wc 0 = Wc ∩ p, where c 0 is the output context.

(Farkas 2003: 5)

predicts that positive epistemic predicates like believe or know take indicative

complements, as these complements are asserted relative to the matrix

subject’s epistemic state.12

Predicates of assertion (‘say’, ‘assert’) and of fiction (‘dream’, ‘imagine’)

similarly introduce complements which are assertively added to the embed-

ded speech context, and also take indicative complements. On the other

hand, complements to desideratives (‘want’, ‘wish’, ‘desire’) and directives

(‘command’, ‘direct’, ‘request’) are not assertive. Rather than eliminating

12 Predicates like believe take subjunctive complements in Italian; see Giorgi & Pianesi 1997,

among many others, for discussion.

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Lisa Matthewson

worlds in the context set where the complement is false, these predicates

eliminate worlds in the context set which are low on an evaluative ranking.13

Thus, these predicates take the subjunctive:

Maria wants subj-cl answer.sbjn

‘Maria wants to answer him.’ (Romanian; Farkas 2003: 2)

of the distribution of the subjunctive, according to which it appears in

nonveridical contexts, while indicative appears in veridical contexts. The

relevant definition is given in (37):

can infer that p is true relative to some individual x (i.e., in some

individual x’s epistemic model) . . . If inference to the truth of p under

F is not possible, F is nonveridical. (Giannakidou 2009: 1889)

subjunctive-taking predicates relies on whether at least one epistemic agent

is committed to the truth of the embedded proposition. Giannakidou’s

approach predicts a similar division between indicative- and subjunctive-

taking predicates to Farkas’s. In Modern Greek, the indicative is found

in complements to predicates of assertion or fiction, epistemics, factives

and semi-factives. The subjunctive is found in complements to volitionals,

directives, modals, permissives, negatives, and verbs of fear (Giannakidou

2009: 9).14

An approach which aims to derive mood selection directly from the

semantics of subordinating predicates is that of Villalta (2009). Villalta argues

13 The complements of desideratives are also not ‘decided’ relative to their context set, which

is what is actually crucial here for Farkas (2003). Farkas proposes an Optimality Theory

account involving the two constraints in (i):

Different rankings of these two constraints give rise to different mood choices in Romanian

vs. French for emotive factive predicates like ‘be sorry/happy’, ‘regret’. Emotive factives are

+Decided but -Assertive, and take the indicative in Romanian and the subjunctive in French.

14 Giannakidou (2009) proposes that the Modern Greek subjunctive complementizer na con-

tributes temporal semantics (introducing a ‘now’ variable). The generalization is still that

subjunctive appears in non-veridical contexts; see Giannakidou 2009 for details.

9:18

Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

are compared to contextual alternatives on a scale encoded by the predicate.

The contribution of the subjunctive is to evaluate the contextual alternatives.

Quer (1998, 2001), looking mainly at Catalan and Spanish, argues that the

subjunctive signals a shift in the model of the evaluation of the truth of the

proposition. For unembedded assertions, the anchor is the Speaker and the

model is the epistemic model of the Speaker. Operators which introduce sub-

junctive introduce buletic models, or other models which create comparative

relations among worlds. This predicts we will find subjunctive in purpose

clauses, and predicts indicative/subjunctive alternations in restrictive rel-

ative clauses, concessives, and free relatives. Quer (2009) also discusses

indicative/subjunctive alternations in conditionals, claiming that indicative

appears in protases that are ‘realistic in the sense that they quantify over

worlds which are close enough to the actual one’ (2009: 1780). Subjunctive is

used when the worlds are further away from the actual one or even disjoint

from it.

An approach to mood which draws on notions from noun phrase se-

mantics is offered by Baker & Travis (1997). Baker and Travis argue that in

Mohawk, mood marks a division between ‘verbal specificity’ (‘factive’ mood)

and Kamp/Heim-style indefiniteness (two variants of non-factive mood, pre-

viously called the ‘future’ and the ‘optative’). Indefinite/non-factive mood

appears in future contexts, in past habituals, in negative clauses, under the

verbs ‘promise’ and ‘want’, and in free relatives with a non-specific reading.

What links all these indefinite-mood environments, according to Baker and

Travis, is the same feature that characterizes indefinite noun phrases in the

Kamp/Heim system: a free variable (in the Mohawk case, an event variable)

which undergoes existential closure in the scope of various operators.

This ends our brief tour through some major formal approaches to the

subjunctive.15 The reader is referred to Portner (2003) for further overview

and discussion. In the next sub-section I show that the St’át’imcets subjunc-

tive does not behave like the Indo-European or Mohawk subjunctives, and

that a new approach is required.

15 I defer discussion of Portner’s (1997) analysis to Section 5, since I will be adapting Portner’s

approach for St’át’imcets.

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Lisa Matthewson

distribution and semantic effects. Although there are some initial similarities,

such as the fact that both St’át’imcets and Indo-European subjunctives can be

used to express wishes and hopes, St’át’imcets mood displays no sensitivity to

the choice of matrix predicate. Thus, unlike in Romance or Greek, predicates

of assertion, belief and fiction are not differentiated from desideratives or

directives. All attitude verbs in St’át’imcets take the indicative, as illustrated

for a representative range in (38).16,17

say det=Laura det=nom=arrive=3indic det=John

‘Laura said that John came.’

b. tsut-ánwas k=Laura kw=s=t’iq=Ø k=John

say-inside det=Laura det=nom=arrive=3indic det=John

‘Laura thought that John came.’

c. zwát-en-as k=Laura kw=s=t’iq=Ø k=John

know-dir-3erg det=Laura det=nom=arrive=3indic det=John

‘Laura knew that John came.’

16 Interestingly, the same is not true of the related language Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish). In

Skwxwú7mesh, the subjunctive (glossed as ‘conjunctive’; see fn. 2) is obligatory under ‘tell

someone to do something’ (as in (i)), but is optional under ‘I think’, depending on whether

the speaker knows that the event did not take place (ii-iii) (all data from Peter Jacobs, p.c.).

I tell-dir-dat-3obj come 3conj come.inside

‘I told him to come inside.’

I think det nom-real-3poss come come.inside

‘I think he came inside.’

I think irr-3conj come come.inside

‘I thought he came inside (but then I found out that he’s still outside playing).’

Jacobs (1992) analyzes the mood distinction in Skwxwú7mesh as encoding speaker certainty,

which suggests that it differs from the St’át’imcets mood system.

17 The expected subject inflection in the embedded clauses in (38) would actually be possessive

=s; see van Eijk 1997 and Davis 2006. However, many modern speakers prefer to omit the

possessive ending and to use matrix indicative =Ø in these contexts. This does not affect

the point at hand, as the variation is between two forms of indicative marking.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

dream det=Laura det=nom=leave=3indic det=John

‘Laura dreamt that John came.’

e. xát’-min’-as k=Laura kw=s=t’iq=Ø k=John

want-red-3erg det=Laura det=nom=arrive=3indic det=John

‘Laura wanted John to come.’

f. tsa7cw k=Laura kw=s=t’iq=Ø k=John

glad det=Laura det=nom=arrive=3indic det=John

‘Laura was happy that John came.’

g. tsún-as k=Laura k=John kw=s=ts7as=Ø

say(dir)-3erg det=Laura det=John det=nom=come=3indic

‘Laura told John to come.’18

belief or report, as it is in many European languages (cf. Palmer 2006: 116).

Compare Spanish (39a) with St’át’imcets (39b) and (39c).

not I.think that learn+3sg+pres+sbjn

‘I don’t think that he is learning.’ (Spanish; Palmer 2006: 117)

b. cw7aoz kw=en=tsut-ánwas kw=s=zwátet-cal=s

neg det=1sg.poss=say-inside det=nom=know-act=3poss

‘I don’t think that he is learning.’

c. cw7aoz kw=s=tsut=s kw=s=Aggie

neg det=nom=say=3poss det=nom=Aggie

kw=s=t’cum=s i=gáp=as

det=nom=win=3poss when.past=evening=3sbjn

‘Aggie didn’t say she won last night.’

ences inside relative clauses. In some Indo-European languages, an indica-

tive/subjunctive contrast in restrictive relatives gives rise to a distinction

which has variously been analyzed as referential/attributive, specific/non-

specific, or wide-scope/narrow-scope (see Rivero 1975, Farkas 1992, Giannaki-

dou 1997, Beghelli 1998, Quer 2001, among many others). This is illustrated in

18 The predicate in (38g) differs from that in (38a)–(38f) because the ‘ordering’ environment in

(38g) requires an unergative embedded verb.

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Lisa Matthewson

(40) for Catalan. Quer’s analysis of these examples involves a shifting of the

model in which the descriptive condition in the relative clause is interpreted;

the effect is one of apparent ‘wide-scope’ for the descriptive condition in the

indicative (40a), as opposed to in the subjunctive (40b).

need.3pl a mayor that make.indic.prs.3sg big

inversions]

investments

‘They need a mayor that makes big investments.’

(Catalan; Quer 2001: 90)

b. necessiten un alcalde [que faci grans

need.3pl a mayor that make.sbjn.prs.3sg big

inversions]

investments

‘They need a mayor that makes big investments.’

(Catalan; Quer 2001: 90)

marking, as shown in (41). The distinction which is in Catalan is encoded

by mood, is achieved by means of determiner choice in St’át’imcets (see

Matthewson 1998, 1999 for analysis).

impf want-red-3pl.erg det=chief=exis impf

ka-nuk’wa7-s-tanemwít-a k=wa=s mays

circ-help-caus-3pl.pass-circ det=impf=3poss fix

ku=tsetsítcw

det=houses

‘They need a (particular) chief who can help them build houses.’

[wide-scope indefinite]

b. wa7 xat’-min’-ítas ku=kúkwpi7 wa7

impf want-red-3pl.erg det=chief impf

ka-nuk’wa7-s-tanemwít-a k=wa=s mays

circ-help-caus-3pl.pass-circ det=impf=3poss fix

ku=tsetsítcw

det=houses

‘They need a(ny) chief who can help them build houses.’

[narrow-scope indefinite]

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

are also absent in St’át’imcets. The antecedents of both notionally indicative

and subjunctive conditionals are obligatorily marked with the subjunctive,

as shown in (42), a paradigm borrowed from Quer 2009: 1780. Although

there are ways to distinguish the different types of conditionals, they do not

involve an indicative-subjunctive mood alternation.

lh=7áts’x-en=an, nílh=t’u7 s=qwál’-en-tsin

comp=see-dir=1sg.sbjn foc=prt nom=tell-dir-2sg.obj

b. Context: I’m looking for John, and I suspect you know where he

is but you haven’t been telling me. You say:

lh=7ats’x-en=án=ka, sqwal’-en-tsín=lhkan=kelh

comp=see-dir=1sg.sbjn=irr tell-dir-2sg.obj=1sg.indc=fut

c. Context: I was looking for John, but he left town before I could

find him. You say:

lh=7ats’x-en=án=ka=tu7

comp=see-dir=1sg.sbjn=irr=then

qwal’-en-tsín=lhan=ka

tell-dir-2sg.obj=1sg.indic=irr

The St’át’imcets subjunctive is also not like the Mohawk one. Unlike in

Mohawk, St’át’imcets futures take the indicative, as shown in (43); so do past

habituals, as shown in (44), and plain negatives, as in (45).

see-dir-2sg.obj=1sg.indic=fut comp=one.day.away=3sbjn

‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’

b. *ats’x-en-tsín=an=kelh lh=nátcw=as

see-dir-2sg.obj=1sg.sbjn=fut comp=one.day.away=3sbjn

‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’

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Lisa Matthewson

impf=1pl.indic=emph=then loc-get.water-mid det=water

lhel=ta=qú7qu7=a múta7 lhel=ta=tswáw’cw=a

from=det=water(pl)=exis and from=det=creek=exis

‘We used to fetch water from the spring and the creek.’

(Matthewson 2005: 370)

b. *wa7=at=wí7=tu7 n-záw’-em ku=qú7

impf=1pl.sbjn=emph=then loc-get.water-mid det=water

lhel=ta=qú7qu7=a múta7 lhel=ta=tswáw’cw=a

from=det=water(pl)=exis and from=det=creek=exis

‘We used to fetch water from the spring and the creek.’

neg=prt det=1sg.poss=sleep det=one evening

‘I didn’t sleep one night.’ (Matthewson 2005: 267)

b. *áy=t’u7 kw=s=gúy’t=an ku=pála7 sgap

neg=prt det=nom=sleep=1sg.sbjn det=one evening

‘I didn’t sleep one night.’

Finally, there are the cases where the St’át’imcets subjunctive does ap-

pear, with a predictable meaning difference, which are not attested in other

languages. These include the use of the St’át’imcets subjunctive to weaken

an imperative to a polite request, or to help turn a question into a statement

of uncertainty (see examples in (13)–(15) and (16)–(20) above).

I will argue below that in spite of these major empirical differences

between the St’át’imcets subjunctive and that of familiar languages, the basic

framework for mood semantics advanced by Portner (1997) can be adapted

to capture all the St’át’imcets facts. This will support Portner’s proposal

that moods are dependent on modals and place restrictions on the modal

environments in which they appear.

modal environment in which they appear. More precisely, moods typically

restrict properties of the accessibility relation associated with a governing

modal operator (see also Portner 2003: 64). The modal operator may be

9:24

Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

situations, be provided by context.

For illustration, let us first see how Portner analyzes English ‘mood-

indicating may’. In each of the examples in (46), the may is not the ordinary

modal may; it is not asserting possibility. (46b), for example, does not mean

‘it is possible that it is possible that Sue wins the race.’

b. It is possible that Sue may win the race.

c. May you have a pleasant journey! (Portner 1997: 190)

cally possible (possible according to someone’s beliefs). For example, (46a)

presupposes that Jack believes it is possible for you to be happy. He provides

the analysis in (47).

(47) For any reference situation r , modal force F , and modal context R,

Jmay dep (φ)Kr ,F ,R is only defined if φ is possible with respect to

Doxα (r ), where α is the denotation of the matrix subject.

When defined, Jmay dep φKr ,F ,R = JφKr ,F ,R (Portner 1997: 201)

Portner further argues that there are actually two mood-indicating may’s,

with slightly different properties. Mood-indicating may under wish, pray,

etc. (as in (46a)) or in unembedded clauses (as in (46c)) has an extra require-

ment: it presupposes that the accessibility relation R is buletic (deals with

somebody’s wishes or desires).

The discussion of mood-indicating may illustrates an important aspect

of Portner’s analysis, namely that moods place presuppositions on the modal

accessibility relation (a type of conversational background). With English

mood-indicating may, there is a doxastic and sometimes a buletic restriction.

For the English mandative subjunctive, which appears in imperatives as well

as in embedded contexts as in (48), R must be deontic, as shown in (49).

(48) Mary demands that you join us downstairs at 3pm. (Portner 1997: 202)

(49) For any reference situation r , modal force F , and modal context R,

Jm-subj(φ)Kr ,F ,R is only defined if R is a deontic accessibility relation.

9:25

Lisa Matthewson

The idea that moods restrict modal conversational backgrounds is common

to several other modal-based analyses of mood (e.g., Farkas 1992 and Giorgi &

Pianesi 199720 ), and is also found in James 1986. What James calls ‘manners

of representation’ are root vs. epistemic conversational backgrounds:

esis that there are two separate manners of representation.

Moods . . . signify manners of representation. They are not am-

biguous, however; they signify one modality or the other (James

1986: 15).

In the analysis to follow, I will adopt Portner’s idea that moods place

restrictions on a governing modal operator. I will argue that the empirical

differences between the St’át’imcets subjunctive and Indo-European sub-

junctives derive from the fact that the former restricts the conversational

background of the modal operator in such a way that the modal force is

weakened.

I deal here only with the constructions where the subjunctive has a semantic

effect; I will not address the cases of obligatory subjunctive agreement which

were presented in subsection 2.2.21 My analysis will account for all meaningful

uses of the St’át’imcets subjunctive except the two uses which contain the

particle t’u7. See Section 8 for some discussion of the t’u7-constructions.

19 Interestingly, the Italian indicative imposes a modal force restriction as well as a conver-

sational background restriction; it is only used with a force of necessity (Portner 1997:

197).

20 According to Giorgi and Pianesi, the subjunctive indicates that the ordering source is non-

empty; this is a restriction on a conversational background.

21 The analysis presented below is actually compatible with the obligatory presence of the

subjunctive in if -clauses introduced by lh=, and may even help to explain why lh= obligatorily

selects the subjunctive when it means ‘if’, but selects indicative when it means ‘before’.

Thanks to Henry Davis for discussion of this point, and see Davis 2006: chapter 26. (See also

van Eijk 1997: 217, although van Eijk analyzes the subjunctive-inducing lh= as distinct from

(e)lh= ‘before’.) As for the other obligatory cases of subjunctive, these may be grammaticized,

semantically bleached relics of original meaningful uses, aided by the fact that subjunctive

marking is intertwined with person agreement.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

semantics

The first thing to establish is that like Portner’s moods, the St’át’imcets

subjunctive does not itself assert a modal semantics, but is dependent on

a governing modal operator. One piece of evidence for this is that the

St’át’imcets subjunctive must co-occur with an overt modal in almost all its

uses. Of the seven uses of the subjunctive being analyzed here, five of them

have an overt modal (the deontics, ‘pretend’, wh-questions, yes-no questions,

ignorance free relatives), one of them is plausibly analyzed as containing a

covert modal (imperatives), and only one is non-modal (plain assertions). As

noted above, the addition of the subjunctive to plain assertions is extremely

restricted and at least semi-conventionalized. If the subjunctive were itself

independently modal, it would be difficult to explain the minimal contrasts

in (50)–(51).22

sleep=3sbjn det=child=exis

Attempted: ‘I hope the child sleeps.’

b. gúy’t=as=ka ti=sk’úk’wm’it=a

sleep=3sbjn=deon det=child=exis

‘I hope the child sleeps.’

owl=2sg.sbjn fly deic and make.animal.noise

‘Pretend to be an owl: fly around and hoot.’

b. skalúl7=acw=ka: saq’w knáti7 múta7 em7ímnem

owl=2sg.sbjn=deon fly deic and make.animal.noise

‘Pretend to be an owl: fly around and hoot.’

tation of St’át’imcets subjunctive clauses indicates that the mood does not

22 As noted above, Portner’s analysis does allow for unembedded uses of non-indicative moods,

with the modal accessibility relation being provided by context. So there is no problem with

the cases where the St’át’imcets subjunctive can appear without a c-commanding modal

(as in (5)–(6)). Of course, we would eventually like to explain when these unembedded

subjunctives can and cannot appear. Portner (1997: 201) notes for mood-indicating may and

the mandative subjunctive that ‘Neither of these have a completely predictable distribution,

in that neither occurs in every context in which a purely semantic account would predict

that it could . . . it must be admitted that lexical and syntactic idiosyncracies come into play.’

9:27

Lisa Matthewson

itself contribute modal semantics. For example, (50b) does not mean ‘It

should be the case that the child should sleep’.

The St’át’imcets subjunctive also patterns morphosyntactically like a

mood rather than like real modals in the language. As shown above, the

subjunctive is obligatorily selected by some complementizers, unlike modals.

The subjunctive is also fused with subject marking into a full paradigm, unlike

the modals, which are independent second-position clitics.23 I therefore

conclude that the St’át’imcets subjunctive does not itself introduce a modal

operator, but requires one in its environment.

versational background

it cannot be analyzed as being restricted to a certain type of conversational

background. This is illustrated by the fact that it allows deontic, buletic or

epistemic uses. Deontic conversational backgrounds arise with imperatives,

as in (52) or (14b), repeated here in (53):

deic=3sbjn=(adhort) comp=do-caus=2pl.sbjn

‘Could you do it like this, you folks?’

go=2sg.sbjn=adhort deic Vancouver=exis

‘You could go to Vancouver.’

already=3sbjn=deon=demon=prt impf fix-dir-3erg

‘I wish he had fixed that already.’

sleep=3sbjn=deon det=child=exis

‘I hope the child sleeps.’

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

where=3sbjn=fut comp=going.to=2sg.sbjn go

‘Wherever will you go?’ / ‘I wonder where you are going to go now.’

(adapted from Davis 2006: chapter 24)

already=3sbjn=ynq=infer take-dir-3erg

ni=n-s-mets-cál=a

det.abs=1sg.poss-nom=write-act=exis

‘I wonder if she’s already got my letter.’ / ‘I don’t know if she got my

letter or not.’

the same way as the European moods discussed by Portner (1997), which

hardwire a restriction to a particular type of conversational background.

force

The core idea of my proposal is that the St’át’imcets subjunctive restricts its

governing modal only in such a way as to weaken the force of the proposi-

tion expressed. The intuition that the St’át’imcets subjunctive weakens the

proposition it adds to was already expressed by Davis (2006: chapter 24):

of the ‘force’ of a sentence. With ordinary indicative subjects,

a sentence expresses a straightforward assertion, question or

command; but with subjunctive subjects, the effect is to weaken

the force of the sentence, so that an assertion becomes a wish,

a question becomes a conjecture, and a command becomes a

request.

context, and how to derive the various effects of the subjunctive in a unified

way. I will claim that the St’át’imcets subjunctive restricts the conversational

background of a governing modal in such a way that the modal imparts a

force no stronger than weak necessity. Since there are no modals which

9:29

Lisa Matthewson

lexically encode quantificational force in St’át’imcets, this will mean that the

subjunctive must appear in the scope of a variable-force modal, and will

restrict it to a weakened interpretation.

6 Analysis

domain of quantification of a c-commanding modal, so that the interpretation

which obtains is weaker than pure necessity.24 Rullmann et al. (2008) argue

that St’át’imcets possesses no modals which are lexically restricted for a

pure necessity reading (see also Matthewson et al. 2007 and Davis et al.

2009). Instead, all St’át’imcets modals seem to allow both weak and strong

interpretations (see (3) above, and see the references cited for many more

examples). So, what we need to say is that the subjunctive forces an already

potentially weak c-commanding modal to have a weak reading. In order to

see how this will work, I first very briefly review the basics of a Kratzerian

analysis of modals, and then outline how modals in St’át’imcets are analyzed.

We will then add the subjunctive.

Modals in a standard analysis introduce quantifiers over possible worlds.

The set of worlds quantified over is narrowed down by two conversational

backgrounds. First, it is narrowed down by the modal base, and then it is

ordered and further narrowed down by the ordering source. The modal base

and the ordering source are both usually provided by context in English,

although there are systematic contributions of tense and aspect to the con-

versational background (see e.g., Condoravdi 2002 for discussion). A simple

example is given in (58).

facts are the same as in the actual world (e.g., we ignore worlds where

Chris is not in school).

Ordering source (normative): Orders worlds in the modal base so

that the best worlds are those which come closest to the ideal repre-

sented by the school’s homework regulations.

Universal quantification: In all the best worlds, Chris does his home-

work.

24 I would like to thank David Beaver and three anonymous reviewers for helping me clarify

aspects of the analysis and its presentation.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

Rullmann et al. (2008) argue that there are two differences between English

universal modals like must and St’át’imcets modals. First, the St’át’imcets

modals place presuppositions on the conversational backgrounds. Second,

the set of best worlds is further narrowed down by a choice function which

picks out a potentially proper subset of the best worlds to be quantified

over. This can lead to a weaker reading, depending on context. The idea is

illustrated informally in (59).25

sleep=deon det=child=exis

‘The child must/should/can sleep.’

relevant facts about our family are the same as in the actual world.

Ordering source (presupposed to be normative): The best worlds

are those in which my desire for an early night is fulfilled.

Choice function: Picks out a potentially proper subset of the best

worlds.

Universal quantification: In all worlds in the subset of the best worlds

picked out by the choice function, the child sleeps.

worlds, sentences like (59) can be interpreted with any strength ranging

from a pure possibility (‘The child can/may sleep’) to a strong necessity

(‘The child must sleep’). The apparent variable quantificational force of

St’át’imcets modals is thus derived not by ambiguity in the quantifier itself,

but by restricting the size of the set of worlds quantified over by the universal

quantifier. The larger the subset of the best worlds selected by the choice

function, the stronger the proposition expressed. As a limiting case, the

choice function may be the identity function. This results in a reading that is

equivalent to the standard analysis of strong modals like must in English.

Now we turn to the subjunctive. In order to capture the idea that the

subjunctive weakens the c-commanding modal, I analyze the subjunctive as

presupposing that at least one world in the set of best worlds is a world

in which the embedded proposition is false. This will prevent the choice

25 A very sensible suggestion that we should replace Rullmann et al.’s choice function with

an(other) ordering source has been made independently by Kratzer (2009), Portner (2009),

and Peterson (2009, 2010). I will in fact do this below when I compare the current analysis to

that of von Fintel & Iatridou (2008).

9:31

Lisa Matthewson

function from being the identity function.26 This is illustrated informally for

a deontic case in (60).

(60) guy’t=ás=ka ti=sk’úk’wm’it=a

sleep=3subj=deon det=child=exis

‘I hope the child sleeps.’

relevant facts about our family are the same as in the actual world.

Ordering source (presupposed to be normative): The best worlds

are those in which my desire for an early night is fulfilled.

Choice function (must pick out a proper subset of the best worlds, to

avoid a contradiction with the presupposition of the subjunctive): The

very best worlds are those in which my spouse’s desire for an early

night is also fulfilled.

Universal quantification: All the very best worlds are worlds in which

the child sleeps.

(59) allows a strong interpretation which (60) disallows. If the choice

function in (59) is the identity function, the speaker will be satisfied only

if the child sleeps (‘in all the worlds where my desire for an early night is

fulfilled, the child sleeps’). In (60), the speaker will certainly be satisfied if

the child sleeps, but there are also other ways to make him/her happy. (60)

asserts only that ‘in all the worlds where my and my spouse’s desires for an

early night are fulfilled, the child sleeps’ — so the speaker’s desires may be

satisfied if the speaker’s spouse looks after the child while the speaker goes

to sleep. The requirement that (60) places on the child is thus weaker than a

strong necessity.

In the remainder of this section I provide a more formal implementation

of this idea, and in Section 7 I show how the analysis accounts for a wide

range of uses of the St’át’imcets subjunctive, including imperative-weakening,

question-weakening, and ignorance free relatives.

26 Thanks to Hotze Rullmann (p.c.) for discussion of this point. The requirement that p be false

in at least one of the best worlds appears reminiscent of a nonveridicality-style analysis,

and there may be some deep significance to this. However, the analyses are different. For

Giannakidou, the issue is always epistemic, as veridicality is defined in terms of a truth

entailment in an individual’s epistemic model; see (37). Thus, subjunctive is predicted

under verbs like ‘want’, as propositions under ‘want’ are not entailed to be true in any

individual’s epistemic model. Under my analysis, the subjunctive has an anaphoric modal

base and ordering source. I will show in subsection 7.5 that my analysis correctly predicts

the indicative under verbs like ‘want’ in St’át’imcets.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

I adopt the following basic definitions from von Fintel & Heim 2007. (61)

shows the ordering of worlds according to how well they satisfy the set of

propositions in the ordering source, and (62) shows how the best worlds are

selected.

(61) Given a set of worlds X and a set of propositions P , define the strict

partial order <P as follows:

∀w1 , w2 ∈X : w1 <P w2 iff {p∈P : p(w2 ) = 1} ⊂ {p∈P : p(w1 ) = 1}

For any worlds w1 and w2 , w1 comes closer to the ideal set up by

the ordering source than w2 does iff the set of propositions in the

ordering source which are true in w2 is a proper subset of the set of

propositions in the ordering source which are true in w1 .

(62) For a given strict partial order <P on worlds, define the selection

function maxP that selects the set of <P -best worlds from any set X

of worlds:

∀X ⊆ W : maxP (X) = {w ∈ X : ¬∃w 0 ∈ X : w 0 <P w}

(von Fintel & Heim 2007: 55)

The best worlds are those for which there are no worlds closer to the ideal

than they are. The analysis of English must is given in (63). must takes as

arguments a modal base, an ordering source and a proposition, and asserts

that in all the best worlds in the modal base, as defined by the ordering

source, the proposition is true.27,28

(63) Jmust Kc,w = λhhs,hst,tii .λghs,hst,tii .λqhs,ti .∀w 0 ∈maxg(w) (∩h(w)) : q(w 0 ) = 1

(von Fintel & Heim 2007: 55)

arguments a modal base, an ordering source, and a proposition. fc represents

the contextually given choice function.

27 Nothing crucial hinges on having the conversational backgrounds present in the syntax (as

in von Fintel & Heim 2007) rather than being parameters of interpretation (as in Portner

1997). However, the syntactic version may have a potential advantage in enforcing the

required anaphoricity of the conversational backgrounds once we bring in the subjunctive.

In Rullmann et al.’s (2008) analysis of St’át’imcets modals, the choice function is also a

syntactic argument of the modal. Following the suggestion of an anonymous reviewer, I have

changed this here, but again, nothing crucial hinges on the decision.

28 As an anonymous reviewer reminded me, English must also encodes restrictions on its

modal base and ordering source, parallel to (but obviously different from) those defined for

ka in (64). See for example von Fintel & Gillies 2010 and Matthewson 2010, to appear for

discussion.

9:33

Lisa Matthewson

g is a normative ordering source.

If defined, Jka(h)(g)Kc,w = λqhs,ti .∀w 0 ∈fc (maxg(w) (∩h(w))) : q(w 0 ) = 1

(adapted from Rullmann et al. 2008: 340)

Now for the subjunctive. As shown in (65), the subjunctive does not affect

truth conditions but merely enforces a weaker-than-necessity reading of a

modal in the environment. The subjunctive does not itself introduce any

conversational backgrounds; h and g in (65) are free variables. I assume

that this enforces anaphoricity: the mood must be c-commanded by a modal

which introduces h and g.29

0

When defined, Jsbjn(φ)Kc,w = λw 0 .J(φ)Kc,w

world w’ in the set of best worlds in the modal base, as defined by the

ordering source, such that φ is false in w 0 . The analysis is applied to a

normative subjunctive case in (66).

sleep=3subj=deon det=child=exis

‘I hope the child sleeps.’

source

ii. ∃w 0 ∈ maxg(w) (∩h(w)) [the child doesn’t sleep in w 0 ]

∀w 0 ∈ fc (maxg(w) (∩h(w))) [the child sleeps in w 0 ]

As above, maxg(w) (∩h(w)) picks out the best worlds in the modal base,

as defined by the normative ordering source. The contextually determined

choice function fc picks out a subset of maxg(w) (∩h(w)), and the modal

universally quantifies over the set picked out by the choice function. Be-

cause the subjunctive mood presupposes that there is at least one world

29 Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for pointing out an inconsistency in an earlier version of

(65).

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

must pick out a proper subset of the worlds provided by the modal base

and ordering source. This forces a weaker-than-universal reading. We in

fact predict gradient readings with the subjunctive — anything from pure

possibility to weak necessity. This seems to fit with the facts about when the

subjunctive is felicitous.

I have so far been simply following Portner (1997) in modeling the mood

restriction as a presupposition, rather than as ordinary asserted content, or

some other kind of inference. The question arises of whether there is any

St’át’imcets-internal justification for the assumption that presupposition is

involved.30

If the subjunctive contributed ordinary asserted content, we would predict

that it would fail to project through presupposition holes such as negation or

conditionals, and that it could be directly affirmed or denied by the hearer.

The issue of projection through presupposition holes is not testable for

most of the relevant constructions in St’át’imcets. For example, negation in

St’át’imcets is a predicate which embeds an obligatorily nominalized (i.e.,

indicative) subordinate clause. When a subjunctive clitic does co-occur with

negation, it attaches to the negation itself, as shown in (67). Thus, while (67) is

not interpretable in a way which would show that the subjunctive contributed

asserted content, the results are not conclusive because the subjunctive is

probably not scoping under negation syntactically.

neg=3sbjn=deon=prt det=nom=go=3poss

‘I wish he wouldn’t go.’ (van Eijk 1997: 214)

≠ ‘It is not the case that [in at least one of the best worlds in the

modal base, he doesn’t go, and in all of the set of worlds selected by

the choice function, he goes].’

i.e, ≠ ‘It is not the case that [it’s good if he goes, and I can still be

happy if he doesn’t].’

Nor can we test projection through ‘if’, as ‘if’-clauses obligatorily and re-

dundantly select the subjunctive in St’át’imcets (see subsection 2.2). However,

questions provide evidence that the subjunctive does not contribute ordinary

asserted content. Recall that the subjunctive plus an inferential evidential

30 Thanks to David Beaver and an anonymous reviewer for asking for clarification of this issue.

9:35

Lisa Matthewson

The question in (68) cannot be interpreted as if the subjunctive contributed

asserted content which scopes below the question. (See subsection 7.2 for

analysis of questions like (68).)

foc=3sbjn=ynq=infer nom=Lémya7 det=chief

‘I think maybe Lémya7 is the chief / I wonder if Lémya7 is the chief.’

≠ ‘Is it the case that [in at least one of the best worlds compatible

with the inferential evidence, Lémya7 is not the chief, and in all of the

set of worlds selected by the choice function, Lémya7 is the chief]?’

i.e, ≠ ‘Is it the case that [Lémya7 is possibly but not necessarily the

chief]?’

Further evidence that the subjunctive does not contribute ordinary as-

serted content comes from the impossibility of directly affirming or denying

its contribution. This is shown in (69), where B and B’ try to deny A’s sub-

junctive claim that in at least one world compatible with A’s knowledge and

desires, the children don’t sleep. The consultant absolutely rejects the replies

in B and B’.

sleep=3sbjn=deon det.pl=child(pl)=exis

‘I hope the children sleep.’

B #cw7aoz kw=s=wenácw. plán=lhkacw zewát-en

neg det=nom=true already=2sg.subj know-dir

kw=s=cuz’ gúy’t=wit

det=nom=going.to sleep=3pl

‘That’s not true. You already know they will sleep.’

B’ #cw7aoz kw=s=wenácw. lh=cw7áoz=as

neg det=nom=true comp=neg=3sbjn

kw=s=gúy’t=wit i=sk’wemk’úk’wm’it=a, áoz=kelh

det=nom=sleep=3pl det.pl=child(pl)=exis neg=fut

kw=a=s áma ta=scwákwekw-sw=a

det=impf=3poss good det=heart-2sg.poss=exis

‘That’s not true. If the children don’t sleep, you won’t be happy.’

not ordinary asserted content, the question now is whether it contributes a

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

(2005)-style conventional implicature. One major empirical difference be-

tween a traditional understanding of presuppositions (e.g., Stalnaker 1974)

and conventional implicatures is that only the former impose constraints on

the state of the common ground. Conventional implicatures, in contrast, stan-

dardly contribute information which is new to the hearer (Potts 2005). I have

argued elsewhere (Matthewson 2006, 2008b) that St’át’imcets entirely lacks

presuppositions of the common ground type; all not-at-issue content in this

language is treated as potentially new to the hearer.31 In those earlier works I

argued that the St’át’imcets facts necessitate an alternative analysis of pre-

supposition (for example that of Gauker 1998). However, another way to look

at things is to say that out of the class of not-at-issue meanings, St’át’imcets

lacks one sub-type, namely common ground presuppositions. What I have

modeled as a presupposition of the St’át’imcets subjunctive would then be

some other kind of not-at-issue content, perhaps a conventional implicature.

However, these issues go beyond the scope of the present paper and do not

affect the main points being made here, so with these caveats I will continue

to model the subjunctive as introducing a presupposition.

Before turning to more complex constructions involving the subjunc-

tive, it is interesting to consider the similarity between the analysis of the

St’át’imcets subjunctive provided here and von Fintel & Iatridou’s (2008) ideas

about weak necessity modals. von Fintel and Iatridou are concerned with

the difference in quantificational strength between ought and have to/must.

In (70), we see that the restriction on employees is stronger than that on

everyone else.

(70) After using the bathroom, everybody ought to wash their hands;

employees have to.

(von Fintel & Iatridou 2008: 116)

(71) also illustrates the contrast between the different modal strengths.

In (71a), taking Route 2 is the only option, if you want to get to Ashfield: all

the worlds in which you get to Ashfield are Route 2-worlds. In (71b), there

are other getting-to-Ashfield worlds apart from only Route 2-worlds. But the

Route-2 worlds are the best, taking into consideration some other factors

(such as a scenic route).

31 For example, attempts to elicit ‘Hey, wait a minute!’ responses to presupposition failures for

a wide range of standard presupposition triggers have all failed (Matthewson 2006, 2008b).

We are therefore unable to decide the presupposition issue for the subjunctive by using the

‘Hey, wait a minute!’ test (as was suggested by an anonymous reviewer).

9:37

Lisa Matthewson

b. To go to Ashfield, you ought to take Route 2.

(von Fintel & Iatridou 2008: 118)

von Fintel and Iatridou argue that ought is a weak necessity modal, and

that weak necessity modals signal the existence of a secondary ordering

source. This is illustrated informally in (72)–(73). (72) contains a strong

necessity modal, and gives a strong reading, as usual. In (73), a secondary

ordering source further restricts the set of worlds which are universally

quantified over, leading to a weaker reading.

facts about roads hold as in the actual world.

Ordering source: Orders worlds in the modal base so that the best

worlds are those in which you attain your goal of getting to Ashfield.

Universal quantification: In all the best worlds, you take Route 2.

facts about roads hold as in the actual world.

Ordering source 1: Orders worlds in the modal base so that the best

worlds are those in which you attain your goal of getting to Ashfield.

Ordering source 2: Further orders the best worlds picked out by

ordering source 1, so that the very best worlds are those in which

you not only attain your goal of getting to Ashfield, but also attain an

additional goal of going via a scenic route.

Universal quantification: In all the very best worlds, you take Route

2.

As von Fintel & Iatridou (2008: 137) put it: ‘The idea is that saying that

to go to Ashfield you ought to take Route 2, because it’s the most scenic

way, is the same as saying that to go to Ashfield in the most scenic way,

you have to take Route 2.’ This is very parallel in spirit to Rullmann et al.’s

(2008) analysis of St’át’imcets modals, where a weak reading is obtained by

a universal quantifier with a restriction provided by a choice function. And

just like Rullmann et al.’s analysis, von Fintel and Iatridou’s actually predicts

gradience: how ‘weak’ a weak necessity modal is can vary, depending on

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

which secondary ordering source you pick. In fact, given that the motivation

for using a choice function rather than an ordering source was unconvincing

anyway (cf. Kratzer 2009, Peterson 2009, 2010, and Portner 2009), the

Rullmann et al.-style analysis is better implemented using a double ordering

source, exactly as in von Fintel & Iatridou 2008.32

So what is the difference between English and St’át’imcets? Simply that in

English, we lexically encode the weak necessity (ought vs. have to/must). In

St’át’imcets, no differences in modal force are lexically encoded by modals,

but what English modals do, St’át’imcets does via mood. Another way of

describing the analysis offered here would be to say that the St’át’imcets

subjunctive enforces weak necessity (via domain restriction): it forces there

to be two (non-vacuous) restrictions on the set of worlds in the modal base.

While further cross-linguistic investigation goes beyond the scope of this

paper, it is worth pointing out a connection to another intriguing observation

of von Fintel and Iatridou’s, namely that in many languages, weak necessity

modals are created transparently from a strong necessity modal plus coun-

terfactual morphology. This is illustrated in (74) for French, where the modal

appears in the conditional mood, the one which occurs in counterfactual

conditionals.

(74) tout le monde devrait se laver les mains mais les serveurs

everybody must/cond refl wash the hands but the waiters

sont obligés

are obliged

‘Everybody ought to wash their hands but the waiters have to.’

(von Fintel & Iatridou 2008: 121)

universal quantification gives rise to weak necessity interpretations in the

presence of the subjunctive. In St’át’imcets, I have analyzed the weakening

effect as the sole contribution of the subjunctive mood. Of course, ‘counter-

factual’ and ‘subjunctive’ are not the same thing, and I am not in a position

to claim that the current analysis of the subjunctive can extend to counter-

factual morphology in the languages discussed by von Fintel and Iatridou.

However, the present analysis at the very least supports von Fintel and Iatri-

dou’s cross-linguistic generalization that mood morphology can derive weak

32 Like von Fintel and Iatridou, I omit a formal definition of a modal with a double ordering

source; see von Fintel & Iatridou 2008: 138 for some suggestions on how to do this.

9:39

Lisa Matthewson

necessity interpretations, and may offer a potential new avenue for looking

at languages like French.

and applied it to cases involving a normative modal. In this section I aim

to establish that the analysis of the subjunctive as restricting the conver-

sational background of a co-occurring modal can extend to the other uses

of the subjunctive. I deal in turn with imperatives (subsection 7.1), ques-

tions (subsection 7.2), ignorance free relatives (subsection 7.3), the ‘pretend’

cases (subsection 7.4), and finally I return to the fact that in St’át’imcets, the

subjunctive is not licensed by any attitude verbs (subsection 7.5).

7.1 Imperatives

Recall that the subjunctive, when added to an imperative, makes the com-

mand more polite. An example is repeated here:

deic=adhort comp=put.down-dir=2pl.sbjn

‘Just put it over here!’

b. lts7á=has=malh lh=kits-in’=ál’ap

deic=3sbjn=adhort comp=put.down-dir=2pl.sbjn

‘Could you put it down here?’/‘You may as well put it down over

here.’

deontic cases already analyzed above. We could say that the imperative

introduces a deontic necessity modal, and the subjunctive weakens the

proposition expressed. That is what I will in fact say, adopting Schwager’s

(2005, 2006) analysis of imperatives.

Schwager (2005, 2006) claims that imperatives introduce a modal opera-

tor, which is a more restricted version of a deontic necessity modal.33 Nor-

mally, the imperative modal expresses necessity, with the Common Ground

33 See Han 1997, 1999 for an earlier proposal of a similar idea. Han’s modal analysis shares

many of the advantages for St’át’imcets of Schwager’s approach. However, since Han models

the modal claim of the imperative as a presupposition rather than part of the assertion,

extra assumptions would be required to apply it to St’át’imcets subjunctive imperatives.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

serving as the modal base, and a contextually given set of preferences giv-

ing the ordering source. In addition, imperatives carry presuppositions, as

shown in (76). The presuppositions restrict an imperative to situations where

a performative use of a deontic modal would be possible, namely those in

which the speaker is an authority on the matter.34

ordering source]

2. The ordering source is preference-related.35

3. The speaker affirms the ordering source as a good maxim for

acting in the given scenario. (Schwager 2006: 248-249)

Modal base: What the speaker and hearer jointly take to be possible

Ordering source: The speaker’s commands

(77) is true iff all worlds in the Common Ground that make true as much as

possible of what the speaker commands at the world and time of utterance

make it true that the addressee gets up within a certain event frame t

(Schwager 2005: chapter 6). The difference between (77) and the plain modal

statement ‘You must get up’ is that with the imperative, the speaker is

presupposed to be an authority. This has the consequence that whenever an

imperative is defined, it is necessarily true.

Adopting Schwager’s analysis enables us to treat the St’át’imcets sub-

junctive imperatives the same way we treated the weakened normative ka-

statements above. We have to assume that the deontic modal in a St’át’imcets

imperative is, like the overt ka, a universal modal which introduces a choice

function or secondary ordering source. While a normal imperative roughly

says that in all the best worlds (the worlds where you obey my commands),

34 The descriptive vs. performative use of a deontic modal is shown in (i), from (Schwager

2008: 26).

(i) a. Peter may come tomorrow. (The hostess said it was no problem.) descriptive

b. Okay, you may come at 11. (Are you content now?) performative

35 The preferences may relate to the addressee’s wishes, as in the case of advice or suggestions.

9:41

Lisa Matthewson

which you obey my commands is a world in which you do not do P. This

predicts that a weakened imperative means that in the very best worlds,

you do P, but there are other ways to satisfy me. The requirement on the

addressee becomes weaker, just as the requirement on the child to sleep

becomes weaker in the examples discussed above.

An advantage of Schwager’s analysis for St’át’imcets is that it makes the

correct predictions for ‘permission imperatives’ like ‘Have a cookie!’ These

do not perform a speech act of ordering, but rather of invitation. It might be

natural to think that permission imperatives involve a possibility modal, but

Schwager argues that imperatives always introduce a necessity operator. For

Schwager, the permission effect arises due to the contextual parameters; this

is shown in (78).

Given what we know the world to be like and given what you want, it

is necessary that you take an apple. (cf. Schwager 2008: 49)

invitation consists not in a difference in quantificational force, but in ordering

source. This correctly predicts that in St’át’imcets, permission imperatives

do not have to take the subjunctive:36,37

(79) Context: Your friend comes over and is visiting with you. You hear

her stomach rumbling. You give her a plate and say ‘Have some cake!’

a. wá7=malh kiks-tsín-em

be=adhort cake-eat-mid

‘Have some cake!’

b. #wá7=acw=malh kiks-tsín-em

be=2sg.sbjn=adhort cake-eat-mid

‘You may as well have some cake.’

36 (79b) is marked as infelicitous in this context, which is how the consultant judges it. (80b)

appears to be ungrammatical. The difference possibly relates to the presence in (79b) of the

adhortative particle malh, an interesting element whose analysis must await future research.

37 An anonymous reviewer points out that permission imperatives should be able to take the

subjunctive in certain circumstances, meaning something like ‘the very best way to achieve

your desires is p, though there are other ways’. Future research is required to see whether

this prediction is upheld once the right discourse contexts are provided.

9:42

Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

(80) Context: You are at a gathering and they are almost running out of

food. You take the last piece of fish and then you see an elder is

behind you and is looking disappointed and has no fish on her plate.

You say ‘Take mine!’

a. kwan ts7a ti=n-tsúw7=a

take(dir) deic det=1sg.poss-own=exis

‘Take mine!’

b. *kwán=acw ts7a ti=n-tsúw7=a

take(dir)=2sg.sbjn deic det=1sg.poss-own=exis

intended: ‘Take mine!’

necessity modal works for St’át’imcets. In the remainder of this section I

briefly discuss the alternative analysis of Portner (2004, 2007).

Portner’s (2004, 2007) analysis of imperatives relies on the notion of a

‘To-Do List’. The idea is that each participant in a conversation has a To-Do

List, a set of properties which they are committed to satisfying. The To-Do

list Function (which maps each participant to their own To-Do List) is a

component of the Discourse Context (along with the Common Ground and

the Question Set). An imperative, as in (81), denotes a property whose subject

is the addressee. This causes the property to be added to the addressee’s

To-Do List.

Similarly to in Schwager’s analysis, ‘permission’ imperatives are dealt

with in Portner’s analysis by the counterpart of the ordering source, namely

different sub-sets of the To-Do List. The To-Do List is divided into deontic,

bouletic and teleological sub-parts, corresponding to orders, invitations, and

suggestions respectively. The addressee can therefore keep track of actions

she is supposed to take to satisfy someone’s orders, her own wishes, or her

own goals.

An important feature of this analysis is that under the To-Do List ap-

proach, imperatives do not contain modal operators. While for Portner,

imperatives and root modals are closely linked — for example, the successful

utterance of an imperative leads to the truth of a corresponding sentence

containing a root modal — imperatives do not themselves contain modals.38

38 See Portner 2007: 363ff for arguments against Han’s (1999) and Schwager’s (2005, 2006)

analysis of imperatives as containing concealed modals.

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Lisa Matthewson

presence of a modal, whose force is functionally weakened via a restriction

on the conversational background. A unified analysis of the St’át’imcets

subjunctive across all its uses would therefore seem to require a modal in

the imperative.

However, as pointed out by an anonymous reviewer, Portner’s analysis of

imperatives will work for St’át’imcets. The lexical entry for the subjunctive

given above in (65) does not literally require the presence of a governing

modal; it merely requires the presence of contextually available conversa-

tional backgrounds. These are provided within Portner’s analysis, given that

the Common Ground corresponds to (at least a subset of) a circumstantial

modal base, while a To-Do List corresponds to (at least a subset of) a deon-

tic, bouletic or teleological ordering source. To apply Portner’s analysis to

St’át’imcets, we only need to assume that the imperative morpheme can take

the Common Ground plus two To-Do Lists as arguments. The subjunctive

will presuppose that there is a world among the best worlds in the Common

Ground, according to To-Do List 1, in which the imperative is not satisfied.

Assuming that the second To-Do List is ‘more ignorable’ than the first (cf.

also von Fintel and Iatridou 2008 on the primacy of the first ordering source),

then a hearer can decide to be bound either by both To-Do Lists, or only by

the first. If the speaker has set up her own desires as the secondary To-Do

List, we obtain the politeness reading typical of a St’át’imcets subjunctive

imperative.

In summary, we have seen that our analysis of the St’át’imcets subjunctive

extends to the weakened imperatives, as long as we assume that imperatives

are concealed normative modal statements, or at least provide the same

conversational backgrounds as a normative modal. This idea can be im-

plemented within either the approaches of Schwager (2005, 2006, 2008) or

Portner (2004, 2007).

7.2 Questions

in both yes-no and wh questions in St’át’imcets, in each case turning the

question into a statement of uncertainty. Some examples are repeated here.

Following Littell, Matthewson & Peterson (2009), I use the term ‘conjectural

question’ for this construction.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

already=ynq take-dir-3.erg

ni=n-s-mets-cál=a

det.abs=1sg.poss-nom-write-act=exis

‘Has she already got my letter?’

b. lan=as=há=k’a kwán-ens-as

already=3.sbjn=ynq=infer take-dir-3.erg

ni=n-s-mets-cál=a

det.abs=1sg.poss-nom-write-act=exis

‘I wonder if she’s already got my letter.’ / ‘I don’t know if she got

my letter or not.’

where=fut comp=going.to=2sg.sbjn go

‘Where will you go?’

b. nká7=as=kelh lh=cúz’=acw nas

where=3sbjn=fut comp=going.to=2sg.sbjn go

‘Wherever will you go?’ / ‘I wonder where you are going to go

now.’ (adapted from Davis 2006: chapter 24)

2008a, Littell et al. 2009 and Littell 2009.39 The analysis given here will

essentially be that of Littell (2009), with the addition of an account of the

role of the subjunctive (which Littell does not discuss), and an extension to

cases where the subjunctive in a conjectural question is licensed by a future

modal, rather than an evidential.

The paradigms in (84) and (85) illustrate the distributional facts for

conjectural questions which contain an evidential (as opposed to a future

modal). We see that the evidential is obligatory (the (b) examples), but

the subjunctive — while strongly preferred — is not quite obligatory (the (c)

examples).40

arrive=indic=ynq det=Bill

‘Did Bill arrive?’ indic

39 Littell et al. (2009) investigate conjectural questions in three languages: St’át’imcets,

NìePkepmxcín (Thompson Salish) and Gitksan, while Littell (2009) focuses mainly on

NìePkepmxcín.

40 While subjunctive evidential questions (as in (84d), (85d)) are obligatorily interpreted as

statements of uncertainty rather than questions, indicative evidential questions (as in (84c),

(85c)) can optionally be interpreted as ordinary questions. I return to this below.

9:45

Lisa Matthewson

b. *t’íq=as=ha k=Bill

arrive=3sbjn=ynq det=Bill sbjn

c. ?t’íq=ha=k’a k=Bill

arrive=ynq=infer det=Bill

‘I wonder if Bill arrived.’ evid + indic

d. t’iq=as=há=k’a k=Bill

arrive=3sbjn=ynq=infer det=Bill

‘I wonder if Bill arrived.’ evid + sbjn

(85) a. ínwat=wit

say.what=3pl

‘What did they say?’ indic

b. *inwat=wít=as

say.what=3pl=3sbjn sbjn

c. ??inwat=wít=k’a

say.what=3pl=infer

‘I wonder what they said.’ evid + indic

d. inwat=wít=as=k’a

say.what=3pl=3sbjn=infer

‘I wonder what they said.’ evid + sbjn

the syntax and the semantics of a question, but the pragmatics of an as-

sertion (as they do not require an answer in discourse). With respect to

syntax, conjectural questions clearly pattern with ordinary questions. Littell

et al. (2009) point out that not only do conjectural questions contain the

normal yes-no question particle or sentence-initial wh-phrase plus extraction

morphology, they embed under the same predicates as ordinary questions

do. This is shown in (86).

neg det=nom=know-dir-3erg det=Lisa

lh=wa7=as=há=k’a áma-s-as k=Rose ku=tíh

comp=impf=3sbjn=ynq=infer good-caus-3erg det=Rose det=tea

‘Lisa doesn’t know whether Rose likes tea.’

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

evidence that conjectural questions have the same semantic type as ordinary

questions.

Pragmatically, however, conjectural questions do not behave like ordinary

questions, because conjectural questions do not require an answer from the

addressee. In fact, conjectural questions are infelicitous in any situation

where the hearer can be assumed to know the answer. This is illustrated in

(87).41

already=2sg.sbjn=ynq=infer eat

‘I wonder if you’ve already eaten.’

b. Context: You see your friend wearing a watch and you say:

??zwat-en=ácw=ha=k’a

know-dir=2sg.sbjn=ynq=infer

lh=k’wín=as=t’elh

comp=how.many=3sbjn=now

‘Would you know what the time was?’

Consultant’s comment: “You wouldn’t have seen the watch if

you say this.”

argues that rhetorical questions have the force of a negative assertion, as in

(88).

(88) Did I tell you it would be easy? ≈ I didn’t tell you it would be easy.

But this is not the meaning we get in St’át’imcets for conjectural questions.

In order to express a true rhetorical question, St’át’imcets speakers use

something which is string-identical to an ordinary question, just as in English.

This is illustrated in (89)–(90). (90b) shows that adding a subjunctive plus an

evidential to a rhetorical question results in rejection of the utterance.

(89) Context: Your daughter is complaining that learning how to cut fish

is hard. You say:

a. tsun-tsi=lhkán=ha k=wa=s lil’q

say(dir)-2sg.obj=1sg.indic=ynq det=impf=3poss easy

‘Did I tell you it would be easy?’

41 See Rocci 2007: 147 for the same claim for an Italian construction with similar semantics to

St’át’imcets conjectural questions.

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Lisa Matthewson

who det=say det=impf=3poss easy

‘Who said it would be easy?’

(90) Context: You are at the PNE (a fair) and there is this very scary ride

which looks really dangerous. Your friend asks you if you are going

to go on it. You say:

a. tsut-anwas=kácw=ha kw=en=klíisi

say-inside=2sg.indic=ynq det=1sg.poss=crazy

‘Do you think I’m crazy?’

b. *tsut-anwas=ácw=ha=k’a kw=en=klíisi

say-inside=2sg.sbjn=ynq=infer det=1sg.poss=crazy

‘Do you think I’m crazy?’

The status of speaker and addressee knowledge also differs between rhetori-

cal questions and conjectural questions. In rhetorical questions, the speaker

knows the true answer to the question, and typically assumes that the hearer

does as well (e.g., Caponigro & Sprouse 2007). Subjunctive questions are the

exact opposite: neither the speaker nor the addressee typically knows the

answer.

In the remainder of this section I will first present the analysis of conjec-

tural questions which contain evidentials, and then explain an interesting

difference between the evidential and the future with respect to subjunctive

licensing.

First, we need an analysis of questions. I adopt a fairly standard approach,

according to which a question denotes a set of propositions, each of which

is a (partial, true or false) answer to the question (Hamblin 1973).42 This is

illustrated in (91)–(92).

(91) Jdoes Hotze smokeKw = {that Hotze smokes, that Hotze does not

smoke}

(92) Jwho left me this fishKw = {that Ryan left me this fish, that Meagan

left me this fish, that Ileana left me this fish,...} = {p : ∃x[p = that x

left me this fish]}

42 As far as I am aware, this choice is not critical and a different approach to questions would

work just as well.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

Matthewson et al.’s (2007) and Rullmann et al.’s (2008) analysis of k’a as an

epistemic modal with a presupposition about evidence source.

stereotypical ordering source, and for all worlds w 0 , ∩h(w 0 ) is the set

of worlds in which the inferential evidence in w holds.

If defined, Jk’a(h)(g)Kc,w =

λqhs,ti .∀w 0 ∈ fc (maxg(w) (∩h(w)))[q(w 0 ) = 1]

(adapted from Matthewson et al. 2007: 245)

I assume that the evidential modal scopes under the question operator,

so that each proposition in the question denotation contains the evidential.

A conjectural question thus bears some similarity to an English question

containing a possibility modal (e.g., ‘Could Bill have (possibly) arrived?’), with

the additional factor that the evidential introduces a presupposition about

evidence source. Following Guerzoni (2003), I assume that when a question

contains a presupposition trigger, each proposition in the alternative set

carries the relevant presupposition. The question therefore denotes a set of

alternative partial propositions. This is illustrated in (94).43

arrive=3sbjn=ynq=infer det=Bill

‘I wonder if Bill arrived.’

b. Alternatives introduced by (94a):

{that Bill possibly arrived [presupposing there is inferential evi-

dence that Bill arrived], that Bill possibly did not arrive [presup-

posing there is inferential evidence that Bill did not arrive]}

conflict with each other — there is presupposed to be evidence both that Bill

did arrive, and that Bill did not arrive. As Guerzoni (2003) has shown for the

presuppositions of English even, questions whose alternative propositions

introduce different presuppositions end up presupposing the conjunction of

all the individual presuppositions. Take, for example, the question in (95).

43 Recall that although (94a) is translated into English using wonder, the meaning of (94a) does

not include an attitude verb. The claim is that (94a) denotes a set of alternative propositions.

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Lisa Matthewson

each relevant person x contains an answer asserting that x solved Problem

2 and presupposing that solving problem 2 was less likely for x than solving

any other relevant problem’ (Guerzoni 2003: 127). Guerzoni then observes

that a speaker who utters (95)

if the addressee answers that that individual solved the prob-

lem, he will automatically presuppose that the problem was

difficult for that person. Moreover, if the speaker is unbiased,

she doesn’t know in advance (and has no expectations regard-

ing) which propositions will be chosen by the addressee as the

true answer to her question. Given this, it must be the case

that she is taking for granted that the problem was hard for

every arbitrary x in the restrictor of who. Since the addressee

will be able to infer this much, the question is a presupposition

failure unless this condition is indeed satisfied in the context

of the conversation (Guerzoni 2003: 128).

result that an utterance of (94a) commits the speaker to the presupposition

that there is evidence both that Bill did arrive, and that he did not. This is

illustrated in (96).

{that Bill possibly arrived, that Bill possibly did not arrive}

Presupposition of (94a):

There is inferential evidence both that Bill arrived and that Bill did

not arrive

the mixed-evidence presuppositions which result when we conjoin the pre-

suppositions of all the propositions in the question set could derive the

reduced interrogative force of conjectural questions. The idea was that a

speaker who utters a question while presupposing that there is mixed or

even contradictory evidence about the true answer cannot be taken to be

requiring that the hearer provide the true answer to the question. That is,

the mixed presuppositions about evidence signal that the speaker does not

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

believe the question is easily answerable, and this lets the hearer off the hook

with respect to providing an answer.44

However, there are various problems with this analysis, as pointed out

by Littell (2009). One is that the evidence presuppositions are not always

contradictory. For example, a conjectural question such as ‘Who likes ice

cream?’ would presuppose for each contextually salient individual x that

there is inferential evidence that x likes ice cream. But it is perfectly possible

that everyone likes ice cream, and the evidence presuppositions in this case

do not rule out the possibility that the hearer knows the true answer. A

second problem is seemingly incorrect predictions about questions which

contain other evidentials, such as reportative or direct evidentials. Littell

argues that an analysis of conjectural questions which relies on conjoined

evidence presuppositions should predict reduced interrogative force for

any evidential question — yet cross-linguistically it is overwhelmingly only

inferential or conjectural evidentials which result in reduced interrogative

force. This is certainly true of St’át’imcets, as shown in the minimal pair in

(97).45

what=3sbjn=infer here

‘I wonder what these are.’

b. *stám’=as=ku7 ts7a

what=3sbjn=report here

Littell (2009). Two assumptions are required. First, the evidence source

44 Rocci (2007) analyzes a construction in Italian with strikingly similar semantics and prag-

matics: the che-subjunctive construction. According to Rocci, che-subjunctives, which are

formed from questions, are interpreted as statements of doubt. He argues that they involve

epistemic modality and inferential evidentiality, and induce the following presuppositions:

(i) p is not in the Common Ground and ¬p is not in the Common Ground

(iii) There is some set of facts E in CG, such that E is non-conclusive evidence in favor

of p

These are very similar to the effects of the St’át’imcets conjectural questions. However, Rocci

does not give a compositional analysis, perhaps partly because the che-subjunctives have no

overt evidentials or epistemic modals in the structure.

45 Cheyenne is an exception; reportatives in questions in Cheyenne allow non-interrogative

readings under certain circumstances (Murray to appear).

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Lisa Matthewson

flip’ (or ‘origo shift’; Garrett 2001, Faller 2002, 2006, Aikhenvald 2006, Tenny

& Speas 2004, Tenny 2006, Davis, Potts & Speas 2007, Murray to appear,

among others). Thus, a question containing an evidential expects that the

hearer, rather than the speaker, has the relevant type of evidence for the

answer. For example, (98) is not appropriate if directed to your mother, if she

is the one who always cooks dinner. However, it is acceptable when directed

to a third person, who might have heard from your mother what you are

going to eat.

what=report det=going.to=nom-eat-1pl.poss

‘What are we going to eat?’

low on a hierarchy of evidence strength implicates that there is no available

evidence of a stronger type (Faller 2002, among others). This also seems to

be correct in St’át’imcets; the use of an inferential evidential, for example,

leads a hearer to infer that the speaker did not have reportative or direct

evidence.46

These two assumptions lead to the following result: a question containing

an evidential which is low on the scale of evidence strength will lead to an

implicature that the hearer does not have evidence of any stronger type. This

is illustrated in (99).

smoke-mid=ynq=infer det=Hotze

‘I wonder if Hotze smokes.’

b. Alternatives introduced by (99a):

{that Hotze might smoke, that Hotze might not smoke}

c. Presupposition of (99a):

The hearer has inferential evidence both that Hotze smokes and

that Hotze does not smoke

46 Evidential hierarchies are a topic of some debate and there are many interesting questions

to be investigated (see Faller 2002 for an overview). It is also an interesting question how

evidence-type hierarchies interact with the variable interpretations of all evidentials in

St’át’imcets (Matthewson et al. 2007, Rullmann et al. 2008). Although all strengths are

possible for all evidentials in St’át’imcets, inferential k’a is more likely to be weaker (i.e., to

have a more restricted domain of worlds to quantify over), while the reportative ku7 and the

perceived-evidence =an’ are much more likely to give rise to stronger interpretations.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

evidence than inferential about the correct answer

According to Littell (2009), this analysis accounts for the reduced inter-

rogative force of conjectural questions. The idea is that inferential evidence

is a fairly weak type of evidence, and a speaker who asks a question while

implicating that the hearer only has inferential evidence about the true an-

swer is letting the hearer off the hook with respect to answering. This is

intended to account for (a) the judgments of St’át’imcets consultants that

conjectural questions do not require an answer, (b) the fact that conjectural

questions are infelicitous when the addressee is likely to know the answer (cf.

(87)), and (c) the fact that conjectural questions are translated as ‘I wonder’

or ‘maybe’-statements (although they do not literally have the semantics

of ‘wonder’). ‘I wonder’ is simply a typical method in English of raising a

question without demanding an answer.

However, this account does not seem to predict a complete absence of

interrogative force. After all, the inferential evidence the hearer is assumed

to possess is better than no evidence at all. In line with this, an English

question like ‘According to the weak evidence you have, could Hotze smoke?’

still functions pragmatically as an interrogative. I conclude, therefore, that

interrogative flip plus implicatures about the absence of stronger evidence are

not sufficient in and of themselves to completely let the hearer off the hook

with respect to answering. This is actually a welcome result, since questions

containing k’a in the indicative mood are sometimes translated by speakers

into English using ordinary questions (rather than as statements of doubt;

see footnote 40). However, conjectural questions containing the subjunctive

are never translated as ordinary questions. I therefore assume that while a

question containing an evidential is already somewhat ‘weakened’ in terms

of its interrogative force, the subjunctive performs a further weakening. The

task now is to see whether this falls out from the analysis of the subjunctive

proposed above.

Recall that in the context of a governing modal, the subjunctive adds the

presupposition that in at least one of the best worlds in the modal base, the

proposition is false. The best worlds here (as the modal is epistemic) are

those which conform to the propositions known to be true, and in which

things happen as normal. Since the evidential has undergone interrogative

flip, the epistemically accessible worlds must also be flipped to be the worlds

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Lisa Matthewson

compatible with the hearer’s knowledge. The results are shown in (100).47

going.to=3sbjn=ynq=infer come nom=Bill

‘I wonder if Bill is going to come.’

b. Alternatives introduced by (100a):

{that Bill is possibly going to come, that Bill is possibly not going

to come}

c. Presuppositions of (100a):

The hearer has inferential evidence both that Bill is going to

come and that Bill is not going to come; Bill doesn’t come in at

least one normal world compatible with the hearer’s knowledge,

and Bill comes in at least one normal world compatible with the

hearer’s knowledge

d. Implicature: The hearer does not have any stronger type of

evidence than inferential about the correct answer

As before, the implicature that the hearer does not have strong evidence

about the true answer, combined with the mixed-evidence effect of the

evidential presuppositions, will partially reduce the expectation that the

hearer is able to answer the question. In addition, thanks to the subjunctive,

the question now presupposes not only that the evidence about Bill’s possible

arrival is mixed, but also that there are worlds compatible with the hearer’s

knowledge in which Bill does come, and worlds compatible with the hearer’s

knowledge in which he does not come. In other words, the hearer does not

know whether he will come or not. The result is that a subjunctive conjectural

question has a significantly reduced expectation on the hearer to provide an

answer.48

The account just given, which incorporates the analysis of the St’át’imcets

subjunctive as weakening a modal proposition via domain restriction, suc-

47 An anonymous reviewer raises a potentially significant issue with the choice function

required for these cases. With the deontic and imperative cases discussed above, the choice

function had intuitive content (e.g., the ‘very best way to achieve some end’), but here the role

of the subjunctive is purely to make sure there are some ‘best worlds’ where the prejacent is

false. It is thus not clear which proper subset of the best worlds the function picks out.

48 As noted above, conjectural questions also imply that the speaker does not know the answer.

I assume that this follows, by Gricean reasoning, from the fact that the speaker uttered a

question, rather than having simply asserted the true answer. However, there is a bit more to

be said here, since plain questions in St’át’imcets allow a ‘display question’ use — a teacher

can ask (i):

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

in (84)–(85) above. The fact that the subjunctive requires a modal licenser

in a question follows from the analysis of the subjunctive as requiring a

governing modal. The fact that an evidential in a question always licenses

at least slightly reduced interrogative force, regardless of mood, falls out

from the fact that the evidential plays a part in reducing interrogative force.

However, the added contribution of the subjunctive accounts for the pre-

ferred presence of the subjunctive in conjectural questions, as well as for

the fact that questions containing an evidential plus the subjunctive, in con-

trast to indicative evidential questions, can only be interpreted with reduced

interrogative force.

In the final part of this section I extend the discussion to conjectural

questions which contain a future morpheme rather than an evidential. We

have already seen some examples of this ((17b)–(18b) above). In contrast to the

evidential k’a, the future modal obligatorily requires the subjunctive mood if

it is to be interpreted as a statement of doubt. This is shown in (101)–(102),

where the (a) examples are only interpretable as ordinary questions which

expect an answer.

arrive=ynq=fut det=Bill

‘Is Bill going to come?’ fut + indic

b. t’iq=as=há=kelh k=Bill

arrive=3sbjn=ynq=fut det=Bill

‘I wonder if Bill will come.’ fut + sbjn

how.many det=two and two

‘What is two plus two?’

As an anonymous reviewer points out, this display use should technically remain even when

the subjunctive is added. However, consultants judge the subjunctive version of (i) to no

longer be a teacher’s question, but a student’s reply:

how.many=3sbjn=infer det=two and two

‘I don’t know how much two plus two is.’

Perhaps conjectural questions like (ii) simply do not make good questions for a teacher to

ask because they encode addressee ignorance.

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Lisa Matthewson

(102) a. inwat=wít=kelh

say.what=3pl=fut

‘What will they say?’ fut + indic

b. inwat=wít=as=kelh

say.what=3pl=3sbjn=fut

‘I wonder what they will say.’ fut + sbjn

The contrast between the evidential and the future with respect to whether

the subjunctive is required to create a conjectural question is striking. So

far, I have argued that the evidential k’a contributes to reduced interrogative

force by means of an implicature that the hearer has no better than inferential

evidence for the true answer, and that the subjunctive contributes to further

reduced interrogative force by presupposing that it is compatible with the

hearer’s knowledge state that each possible answer is false. Now unlike k’a,

the future modal kelh has not been analyzed as an epistemic modal, and it

does not introduce any evidence presuppositions. The denotation for kelh is

given in (103).

and g is a stereotypical ordering source.

If defined, Jkelh(h)(g)Kc,w,t =

λqhs,hi,tii .∀w 0 ∈ fc (maxg(w) (∩h(w, t)))[∃t 0 [t < t 0 ∧ q(w 0 )(t 0 ) = 1]]

(104).

where=3sbjn=fut comp=going.to=2sg.sbjn go det=Gloria

‘I wonder where Gloria will go.’

b. Alternatives introduced by (104a):

{that Gloria will go home, that Gloria will go to her mother’s

house, . . . }

49 I have altered Rullmann et al.’s formula to incorporate the ordering source and to make the

format parallel to that of other formulas above. The modal base in (103) is a function from

world-time pairs to sets of propositions.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

c. Presuppositions of (104a):

The future claim is made on the basis of the facts; Gloria won’t

go home in at least one stereotypical world compatible with the

facts, Gloria will not go to her mother’s house in at least one

stereotypical world compatible with the facts, . . .

There are no implicatures about evidence types this time, but interestingly,

we still predict reduced interrogative force. And this time, the contribution

of the subjunctive is absolutely critical to deriving the effect. Due to the

subjunctive, the question as a whole presupposes for each contextually

salient place that Gloria might go, that there is at least one stereotypical

world compatible with the facts in which she doesn’t go there. This means

that the facts underdetermine where she might go — and thus, that the

addressee may not know where she will go. Given that the subjunctive is

crucial in deriving the reduced interrogative force, we correctly predict that

the subjunctive is obligatory in conjectural questions like (102).

wh-word, the subjunctive, and the inferential evidential k’a. Some examples

are repeated here.50

leave=prt again go.downhill deic go then deic

nílh=k’a s=npzán-as

foc=infer nom=meet(dir)-3erg

k’a=lh=swát=as=k’a káti7 ku=npzán-as

infer=comp=who=3sbjn=infer deic det=meet(dir)-3erg

‘So he set off downhill again, went down, and then he met who-

ever he met.’ (van Eijk & Williams 1981: 66, cited in Davis 2009)

b. o, púpen’=lhkan [ta=stam’=as=á=k’a]

oh find=1sg.indic [det=what=3sbjn=exis=infer]

‘Oh, I’ve found something or other.’

(Unpublished story by “Bill” Edwards, cited in Davis 2009)

English (although see Dayal 1997 for discussion of Hindi and Davis 2009 for

50 Thanks to Henry Davis for helpful discussions of free relatives in St’át’imcets.

9:57

Lisa Matthewson

know, nothing crucial hinges on the differences between von Fintel’s analysis

and those of, for example, Jacobson (1995) or Dayal (1997). I will argue

that the St’át’imcets ignorance free relatives are compatible with von Fintel’s

proposals, and that their interpretation relies on the independently-attested

semantics of the subjunctive and the evidential.

According to von Fintel, both ignorance and indifference free relatives

presuppose that there is variation among the worlds in the modal base with

respect to the identity of the referent. The free relative denotes a definite

description, and the sentence as a whole asserts that the definite description

satisfies the relevant property.

a. presupposes: ∀w 0 ∈ minw [F ∩(λw 0 .ιx.P (w 0 )(x) ≠ ιx.P (w)(x))] :

Q(w 0 )(ιx.P (w 0 )(x)) = Q(w)(ιx.P (w 0 )(x))

b. asserts: Q(w)(ιx.P (w)(x)) (von Fintel 2000: 34)

With ignorance free relatives, the modal base F is the epistemic alterna-

tives of the speaker.51 Consider (107), for example.

(von Fintel 2000: 27)

which are minimally different from the actual world and in which Arlo is

cooking something different from what he is actually cooking, there is the

same amount of garlic in what he is cooking. As the min-operator introduces

an existential presupposition, (107) presupposes that there are epistemically

accessible worlds in which Arlo is cooking something different from what

he is actually cooking. This amounts to a presupposition that the speaker is

ignorant about the identity of what Arlo is cooking. (107) then asserts that

the unique thing which Arlo is cooking has a lot of garlic in it.

Turning to St’át’imcets, we see that von Fintel’s semantics captures the

required meanings accurately. (105a) presupposes that the speaker does not

know who ‘he’ (the man being talked about) met, and asserts that he met

whoever he met. Moreover, it seems that we can account for the presence of

the subjunctive in free relatives, and also for the presence of the inferential

evidential. In particular, I would like to suggest that the presupposition of

51 With indifference free relatives, the modal base includes counterfactual alternatives.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

speaker ignorance about the denotation of the free relative actually derives

from the evidential k’a and the subjunctive.

The basic idea is that an ignorance free relative is formed from a conjec-

tural question (see Davis 2009 for this insight, although Davis does not word

it in this way). The free relative in (105a), for example, is formed from the

conjectural question in (108).

who=3sbjn=infer deic det=meet(dir)-3erg

‘I wonder who he met.’

denotes the set of propositions of the form ‘he met x’. The evidential in

(108) would normally undergo interrogative flip, giving rise to the inference

that the hearer is not in a position to answer the question of who he met.

When (108) is embedded in a non-matrix environment as in (105a), however, I

assume that interrogative flip does not take place. The free relative based on

(108) will therefore carry a conjoined presupposition that the speaker has

inferential evidence for each alternative, and an implicature that the speaker

has no stronger evidence about who he met. And due to the subjunctive,

it will presuppose that for each alternative, there is at least one best world

in the modal base in which that alternative is false. Thus, the free relative

formed from (108) will presuppose that there is mixed evidence about who he

met, and that for each person x, it’s compatible with the speaker’s knowledge

that he did not meet x. This derives the desired ‘speaker ignorance’ presup-

position. Moreover, we can regard the subjunctive as an overt spell-out of

the existential presupposition of the min-operator, namely that there are

epistemically accessible worlds in which the person he met is not who he met

in the actual world.

A final advantage of this approach is that we correctly capture the fact

that the modal base contains epistemic alternatives, as k’a lexically encodes

an epistemic conversational background. This accounts for the fact that only

ignorance free relatives, and not indifference free relatives, contain k’a in

St’át’imcets (Davis 2009).52

52 Free relatives in St’át’imcets are far from solved. For example, Davis (2009) points out

a problem with free relatives which surface as DPs, as in (105b) above. Davis shows that

syntactically, this wh-word acts like the head noun of a relative clause. This poses a challenge

for the claim that (105b) is formed from a conjectural question. Moreover, if the wh-word is

functioning as a head noun in (105b), the evidential k’a should not be able to attach to it, as

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Lisa Matthewson

7.4 ‘Pretend’

There are two patterns to account for with the ‘pretend’ cases, depending on

the dialect. In Upper St’át’imcets, the subjunctive plus the normative modal

ka frequently renders a ‘pretend to be ...’ interpretation. In Whitley et al. no

date, a native-speaker-produced St’át’imcets teaching manual, the standard

construction when the teacher is asking the students to pretend something

is that in (109).

owl=2sg.sbjn=deon fly deic and animal.noise-mid

‘Pretend to be an owl: fly around and hoot.’ (Davis 2006: chapter

24)

b. snu=hás=ka ku-skícza7

2sg.emph=3sbjn=deon det=mother

‘Pretend to be the mother.’ (Whitley et al. no date)

In Lower St’át’imcets, however, examples like the ones in (109) are rejected

in ‘pretend’ contexts. Lower St’át’imcets uses either an emphatic pronoun

in a cleft, as in (110a), or the adhortative particle malh, as in (110b). In each

case, the subjunctive is present, but ka is absent.

2sg.emph=3sbjn det=owl fly=2sg.indic deic

‘Pretend to be an owl.’

b. skalúl7=acw=malh: sáq’w=kacw knáti7

owl=2sg.sbjn=adhort fly=2sg.indic deic

‘Pretend to be an owl: fly around.’

seems to reduce to another usage, rather than really meaning ‘pretend’.

The examples in (109) are merely instances of the subjunctive adding to a

normative modal assertion. (109a) thus really means something like ‘I wish

you were an owl’, and (109b) means ‘I wish you were the mother.’ In (110a),

the subjunctive adds to a plain assertion to create a wish, something which is

possible with clefts; cf. (5) above. As for (110b), the consultant spontaneously

k’a attaches only to predicates. This is a peculiarity of k’a; Davis shows that other second-

position evidentials, such as reportative ku7 or perceived-evidence =an’, are ungrammatical

in free relatives. Further research is required.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

translates this into English as ‘You may as well be an owl’. The presence

of adhortative malh here is a matter for future research; see comments in

Section 8 below.

Support for the idea that (109) and (110) are not really ‘pretend’ construc-

tions comes from the fact that exactly parallel structures are used when the

wish is not that someone pretend to be something, but rather is a wish which

has a chance of coming true. This is shown in (111). While the consultant

accepts a ‘pretend’ translation for the sentences in (111), she spontaneously

translates them into English using simply ‘you be . . . ’. She judges that the

St’át’imcets sentences do not really mean ‘pretend’.

2sg.emph=3sbjn det=chief

‘Pretend to be the chief.’ [accepted]

‘You be the chief.’ [spontaneously given]

b. nu=hás ku=kúkw

2sg.emph=3sbjn det=cook

‘Pretend to cook.’ [accepted]

‘You be the cook.’ [spontaneously given]

the St’át’imcets subjunctive and more familiar, Indo-European subjunctives,

namely that in St’át’imcets the subjunctive is never selected by a matrix

predicate, and in fact is ungrammatical under all attitude verbs (as shown in

(38) above).

It turns out that this falls out from the current analysis. The St’át’imcets

subjunctive is parasitic on a modal, and introduces the presupposition that

in at least one of the best worlds in the modal base according to the ordering

source, the embedded proposition is false. This presupposition is incompati-

ble with the semantics of attitude verbs, which are standardly analyzed as

introducing universal quantification over a set of worlds. This is illustrated

in (112) for English believe.

(112) JbelieveKw,g =

λphs,ti .λx.∀w 0 compatible with what x believes in w : p(w 0 ) = 1

(von Fintel & Heim 2007: 18)

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Lisa Matthewson

There is no reason to assume that attitude verbs like ‘believe’ have different

semantics in St’át’imcets from in English. On the contrary, the St’át’imcets

verb tsutánwas ‘think, believe’ must involve universal quantification over

belief-worlds, without the possibility of domain restriction (in other words,

there is no choice function or second ordering source). Thus, (113), just like

its English gloss, requires that in all Laura’s belief-worlds, John has left. It

cannot mean that Laura’s beliefs allow, but do not require, that John has left.

say-inside det=Laura det=nom=leave=3poss det=John

‘Laura thinks that John left.’

Given this, adding the subjunctive under the verb ‘believe’ in St’át’imcets

leads to the following contradictory result.

say-inside det=Laura det=nom=leave=3sbjn det=John

‘Laura thinks that John left.’

John didn’t leave in w 0

John left in w 0

why the subjunctive is not used under verbs like ‘believe’ in St’át’imcets,

unlike in Romance.

We need to separately discuss the absence of subjunctive under desire

verbs in St’át’imcets. An example was given in (38e), repeated here.53

want-red-3erg det=Laura det=nom=arrive=3indic det=John

‘Laura wanted John to come.’

worlds (e.g., Stalnaker 1984, Heim 1992 and much subsequent work). The

intuition is that ‘John wants you to leave means that John thinks that if you

leave he will be in a more desirable world than if you don’t leave’ (Heim 1992:

53 Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for discussion of this issue.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

193). Here I adopt Portner’s (1997) analysis of desire verbs, and in particular

we will see that the St’át’imcets verb xát’min’ is better analyzed as similar to

English hope (which according to Portner is similar to believe, and therefore

is not intrinsically comparative) than to English want.

Portner analyzes hope in terms of a buletic accessibility relation Bulα (s, b).

For any situation s and belief situation b of an agent α, Bulα (s, b) is the set

of buletic alternatives for α in s — i.e., ‘the worlds in which the most of α’s

plans in s (relative to his or her beliefs in b) are carried out’ (Portner 1997:

178). The sentence in (116) receives the interpretation shown: it is true just in

case in all of James’s buletic alternatives, Joan arrives in Richmond soon.

{s : BulJames (s, b) ⊆ J Joan arrives in Richmond soon Ks }

Portner’s analysis of hope differs from that of want, and is parallel to that

of believe, in crucial respects (which explain the different embedding possi-

bilities for hope/believe vs. want). In particular, while hope and believe are

defined directly in terms of (doxastic or buletic) alternatives, want is defined

in terms of the agent’s plans. Portner argues that the difference between

hope and want is ‘an idiosyncratic lexical one’ (Portner 1997: 189). If this is

correct, it would not be unexpected that a language could contain only the

hope-type of desire predicate.

If we apply Portner’s analysis of hope to St’át’imcets xát’min’, and attempt

to use the subjunctive in the embedded clause, we get the result in (117).

want-red-3erg det=Laura det=nom=arrive=3sbjn det=John

‘Laura wanted John to come.’

J(117)Ks is only defined if ∃s ∈ BulLaura (s, b): John does not come in s

(117) is defined only if there is at least one situation in Laura’s buletic alter-

natives in which John does not come, but it asserts that in all Laura’s buletic

alternatives, John comes. The contradiction between the presupposition and

the assertion leads to the unacceptability of the sentence.

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Lisa Matthewson

rather than to English want leads to the following cross-linguistic compari-

son. While Indo-European has two kinds of attitude verbs — those involving

universal quantification over alternative worlds, and those which are intrin-

sically comparative — St’át’imcets has only the former kind. This explains

why St’át’imcets lacks subjunctives under attitude verbs, and even allows us

to draw the broader generalization that St’át’imcets only allows universal

quantification over worlds. This language lacks both true possibility modals

and comparative subjunctive-embedding predicates.54

The goal of this paper was to extend the formal cross-linguistic study of

modality to the related domain of mood. Prior work on St’át’imcets has

proposed that languages vary in whether their modals encode quantifica-

tional force (as in English), or conversational background (as in St’át’imcets)

(Matthewson et al. 2007, Rullmann et al. 2008, Davis et al. 2009). Here, I have

argued that languages vary in their mood systems along the same dimension,

at least functionally. While some languages use moods to encode distinctions

of conversational background (buletic, deontic, etc.), St’át’imcets uses mood

to functionally achieve a restriction on modal quantificational force. (Of

course technically, both modals and moods in St’át’imcets restrict conver-

sational backgrounds: the modal force is always universal.) If this view is

correct, then each language-type draws on its moods and its modals together

to allow the full range of specifications. In other words, what modals don’t

encode, moods do. The simplified typological table is repeated here.

quant. force conv. background

St’át’imcets moods modals

The analysis presented here raises some questions for future research.

One outstanding issue is the status of subjunctives with no overt licenser at

54 Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for discussion of this point.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

It is not immediately obvious that a cleft contains a modal operator which

would license the subjunctive, so further investigation is required (although

see fn. 22).

A second interesting puzzle relates to subjunctive imperatives (see sub-

section 7.1). These seem to strongly prefer the presence of the adhortative

particle malh, which is normally optional in imperatives. Perhaps malh (which

has not previously been analyzed) is a modal, and perhaps its obligatoriness

reflects the licensing requirement of the subjunctive. But what consequence

would this have for the analysis provided above, which assumes that even

imperatives with no adhortative particle contain a concealed deontic modal?

This question cannot be answered without a real investigation of malh,

something which goes beyond the bounds of the current paper.

An even trickier element is the particle t’u7. t’u7 is the culprit in the

two uses of the subjunctive I have declined to analyze here, the ‘might as

well’ cases and the indifference free relatives. Like malh, t’u7 has not yet

been formally analyzed, but for t’u7 there are not even any clear descriptive

generalizations about its usage. It is often translated as ‘just’ or ‘still’, but also

occurs where there is no obvious English translation, or even any detectable

semantic contribution. t’u7 frequently appears with strong quantifiers, as in

(118a), is almost obligatory if one wants to express ‘only’, as in (118b), and is

also the St’át’imcets way to express ‘but’, as in (118c) (although here, unlike

in its other uses, it is not a second-position enclitic, and this may therefore

be a case of homophony).

all=prt who sick in=det=house=exis

‘Everyone in the house was sick.’ (Matthewson 2005: 311)

b. tsúkw=t’u7 snilh ti=tsícw=a aolsvm-áolhcw

finish=prt 3sg.emph det=get.there=exis sick-house

‘It was only him who went to the hospital.’ (Matthewson 2005:

324)

c. plan aylh láku7 wa7 cw7it i=tsetsítcw=a, t’u7

already then deic impf many det.pl=houses=exis but

pináni7 cw7aoz láti7 ku=wá7 tsitcw

temp.deic neg deic det=impf house

‘Now there are lots of houses there, but then there were no

houses.’

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Lisa Matthewson

As noted above, t’u7 is present in the ‘might as well’ uses of the subjunc-

tive, and in indifference free relatives. Examples are repeated here.

be=2sg.indic=prt deic now det=evening

‘You are staying here for the night.’

b. wá7=acw=t’u7 lts7a lhkúnsa ku=sgáp

be=2sg.sbjn=prt deic now det=evening

‘You may as well stay here for the night.’

[what=3sbjn=prt deic det.pl=impf circ-dry-caus-3pl.erg-circ

i=n-slalíl’tem=a] wa7 ts’áqw-an’-em

det.pl=1sg.poss-parents=exis] impf eat-dir-1pl.erg

lh=as sútik

comp(impf)=3sbjn winter

‘Whatever my parents could dry, we ate in wintertime.’

(Matthewson 2005: 141, cited in Davis 2009)

modal base and an ordering source — present in any structure where the

subjunctive is licensed. The interpretation of subjunctive + t’u7 in (119b) is

plausibly modal — the consultants are remarkably consistent with the ‘might

as well’ translation. There is also a certain similarity between the ‘might

as well’ construction and the Sufficiency Modal Construction (Krasikova &

Zchechev 2005, von Fintel & Iatridou 2008), illustrated in (121).

(121) To get good cheese, you only have to go to the North End!

(von Fintel & Iatridou 2008: 445)

necessity modal and (b) an exclusive operator such as ‘only’.55 The possible

connection between (119) and (121) may be fruitful to investigate in future

work.56

55 For von Fintel and Iatridou, the ‘only’ is decomposed into ‘neg . . . except’ (and shows up

overtly as this in some languages).

56 See also Mitchell 2003 on ‘might as well’ in English.

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Cross-linguistic variation in modality systems: The role of mood

As for indifference free relatives as in (120), these also very plausibly con-

tain a covert modal, presumably a necessity one. The important question will

be whether the subjunctive can be analyzed as a weakener in the indifference

free relatives. Ideally, the future analysis of (119)–(120) will also elucidate

the semantic connection between the two t’u7-subjunctives, both of which

somehow express the notion of ‘indifference’ (although perhaps in different

senses of the word). (119b), for example, conveys that you can stay here for

the night or not, I don’t really care.

In spite of these outstanding questions, I believe that the empirical cover-

age of the analysis presented here is encouraging. Out of the nine meaningful

uses of the St’át’imcets subjunctive, we set aside two which rely on the poorly-

understood particle t’u7, but have managed to unify the remaining seven.

The analysis accounts for such seemingly disparate effects as the weakening

of imperatives, the reduction in interrogative force of questions, and the

non-appearance of the subjunctive under any attitude verb. The analysis, if

correct, supports the modal approach to mood advocated by Portner (1997),

and suggests that languages have a certain amount of freedom in how they

divide up the various functional tasks required of moods and modals.

Finally, the research reported on here opens up broader questions about

the nature of mood cross-linguistically, for example about the relation be-

tween subjunctive and irrealis. In Section 2, I showed that the St’át’imcets

subjunctive patterns morpho-syntactically, as well as in some of its semantic

properties, like a subjunctive rather than an irrealis. However, we also saw

that the St’át’imcets subjunctive differs semantically from Indo-European

subjunctives. I argued above (see fn. 9) that the use of the term ‘subjunctive’

was justified, even in the face of such non-trivial cross-linguistic variation.

However, there is much more work to be done on the formal semantics of

mood cross-linguistically. Once a wider range of systems are investigated

in depth, we may find that the traditional terminology does not correlate

with the cross-linguistically interesting divisions. Topics for future inquiry

include whether there is a minimal semantic change which would turn a

subjunctive morpheme into an irrealis one, or vice versa, and in general what

the semantic building blocks are from which moods are composed.

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Lisa Matthewson

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Whitley, Rose (translator), Henry Davis, Lisa Matthewson & Beveley Frank

9:73

Lisa Matthewson

Bertha Segal Cook Teaching English Through Action. Upper St’át’imcets

Language, Culture and Education Society.

Lisa Matthewson

UBC Department of Linguistics

Totem Field Studios

2613 West Mall

Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada

lisamatt@interchange.ubc.ca

9:74

Semantics & Pragmatics Volume 3, Article 10: 1–38, 2010

doi: 10.3765/sp.3.10

Chris Barker

New York University

2010-08-14 / Final Version Received 2010-08-31 / Published 2010-09-01

and in natural language semantics. It involves what appears to be a conjunc-

tive use of or: from You may eat an apple or a pear, we can infer that You

may eat an apple and that You may eat a pear — though not that You may

eat an apple and a pear. Following Lokhorst (1997), I argue that because

permission is a limited resource, a resource-sensitive logic such as Girard’s

Linear Logic is better suited to modeling permission talk than, say, classical

logic. A resource-sensitive approach enables the semantics to track not only

that permission has been granted and what sort of permission it is (i.e.,

permission to eat apples versus permission to eat pears), but also how much

permission has been granted, i.e., whether there is enough permission to

eat two pieces of fruit or only one. The account here is primarily semantic

(as opposed to pragmatic), with no special modes of composition or special

pragmatic rules. The paper includes an introduction to Linear Logic.

sensitive, substructural

∗ Thanks to Simon Charlow, Emmanuel Chemla, Cleo Condoravdi, Judith Degen, Nicholas

Fleisher, Sven Lauer, Koji Mineshima, Paul Portner, Daniel Rothschild, Philippe Schlenker,

Chung-chieh Shan, Seth Yalcin, and my anonymous referees.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Non-

Commercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0).

Chris Barker

Since Ross 1941, it has been clear that the logic of obligation and permission

behaves dramatically differently than other sorts of ordinary reasoning:

b. You may eat an apple.

c. You may eat a pear.

If (1a) is true, then it is certainly true that you may eat an apple. Likewise, it

is equally true that you have it within your power to safely eat a pear. So an

adequate account of the meaning of (1a) must explain how it comes to imply

(1b) and (1c).

This pattern is by no means the usual case. Consider a variation on (1) in

which the permissive modal may is omitted:

b. You ate an apple.

c. You ate a pear.

In this case, (2a) certainly does not imply either (2b) or (2c). So something

about permission talk correlates with the unusual implications we are con-

cerned with here.

The puzzle posed by the facts in (1) is known as the free choice permission

problem (Kamp (1973) attributes the choice of name to von Wright).

Since (1a) implies both (1b) and (1c), (1b) and (1c) are therefore both equally

true. Thus in many discussions, (1a) is said to imply (3a), since (3a) is merely

the conjunction of (1b) and (1c):

(3) a. You may eat an apple and you may (also) eat a pear.

b. You may eat an apple or you may (*also) eat a pear.

to eat more than one piece of fruit. This interpretation is the one compatible

with adding also in the second conjunct. Now, although (1a) may be consistent

with a situation in which the addressee is allowed to eat more than one piece

of fruit (as we will see below), the truth of (1a) alone is never sufficient to

guarantee that more than one piece of fruit may be eaten. As a result, (3b) is

a better candidate for a paraphrase of (1a): it, too (surprisingly!) implies (1b)

and (1c), but, like (1a), it does not ever justify eating more than one piece of

10:2

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

fruit. This is why also is never appropriate in the second disjunct in (3b) on

the intended reading.

What I am suggesting is that a complete characterization of permission

sentences must not only tell us whether permission exists and what type of

permission it is (i.e., permission to eat an apple versus permission to eat a

pear), it must also characterize how much permission has been granted. Thus

it must predict that (1a) and (3b) guarantee permission only to eat one piece

of fruit, but that (3a) can be used to provide permission to eat two pieces of

fruit.

The key insight that I would like to develop in this paper first appears,

as far as I know, in unpublished work of Lokhorst (1997): that permis-

sion and obligation is a resource-sensitive domain, so that logics based on

(resource-insensitive) classical logic are not appropriate. Lokhorst suggests

using Girard’s (1987) Linear Logic instead, and I will follow the technical

details of his proposal closely. The contribution of this paper will be to

introduce Lokhorst’s work to a linguistic audience, to evaluate it with respect

to competing linguistic analyses, and to investigate the implications of adapt-

ing Lokhorst’s proposal for the theory of natural language semantics and

pragmatics.

Resource-sensitive (‘substructural’) logics are already familiar in linguis-

tics as tools for building syntax/semantics interfaces (e.g., Moortgat 1997

or Dalrymple 2001). As far as I know, however, no one has yet suggested

that natural language connectives such as or or and can have uses in which

they behave semantically like connectives in a substructural logic, as I am

suggesting here.

Kamp (1973, 1978) discusses free choice permission not just as a puzzle

for modeling reasoning about obligation (deontic logic), but as a puzzle

for the composition of natural language expressions. From the point of

view of natural language semantics, the interesting thing about the free

choice permission problem is that it appears to require not only making

assumptions about the meaning of certain uses of modal expressions such as

may, but about the meaning of the corresponding uses of the coordinating

conjunctions and and or. This will be true of the solution I offer below.

Many solutions to the free choice permission problem rely on pragmatic

mechanisms for much of the heavy lifting, including Kamp 1978, Zimmer-

mann 2000, Fox 2007, and others. The arguments that free choice implica-

tions are pragmatic, and more specifically are scalar implicatures, stem from

discussions of indefinites in Kratzer and Shimoyama 2002, as developed by

10:3

Chris Barker

Alonso-Ovalle (2006) and Fox (2007). The main evidence that free choice

implications may be scalar implicatures turns on the behavior of negated

permission sentences (You may not eat an apple or a pear); I show how the

analysis here can explain the behavior of such sentences in section 5.

In contrast to the pragmatic approaches, I will argue that the main free

choice implications, including especially the implications from (1a) to (1b)

and to (1c), are matters of entailment. To the extent that the analysis here

is viable, it calls into question whether free choice implications are indeed

implicatures. I discuss other entailment approaches (e.g., Aloni 2007) in

section 6.2.

The account of free choice given below will depend on understanding the

basics of Linear Logic at a fairly deep level. Since Linear Logic is unfamiliar

to most semanticists, this section will present the basics of Linear Logic.

I will only introduce the elements of classical logic that will be relevant for

comparison with Linear Logic in the discussion below. This will include

conjunction, disjunction, negation, and Weakening, but not, for example,

quantification.

Formulas. There is a set of atomic formulas a, b, c, . . . , and a set of

variables over formulas A, B, C, . . . . Assume A and B are formulas. Then the

classical negation of A, written ¬A, is a formula; the classical conjunction of

A and B, written A ∧ B, is a formula; and the classical disjunction of A and B,

written A ∨ B, is a formula. In addition, the classical implication of A and B,

written, A → B is defined as an abbreviation of (¬A) ∨ B.

Sequents. A sequent A, B, . . . , M ` N, O, . . . , Z consists of two multisets

of formulas joined by a turnstile (‘`’). Classical sequents are interpreted as

asserting that whenever all of the formulas in the leftmost multiset hold,

then at least one of the formulas in the rightmost multiset must also hold.

Saying that a sequent contains multisets rather than lists of formulas means

that the order in which formulas are written is immaterial. Thus A, B and

B, A represent the same multiset, but A, B is a different multiset than A, A, B,

since the second multiset contains two instances of the formula A.

10:4

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

of formulas. The turnstile can occur in any position, and there can be more

than one formula on the right hand side, so that the expression ‘∆ ` A, B’,

the expression ‘∆ `’, and the expression ‘` ∆’ are all legitimate sequents.

Negation. The following pair of inference rules characterize classical

negation:

∆, A ` Γ ∆ ` A, Γ

¬1 ¬2

∆ ` ¬A, Γ ∆, ¬A ` Γ

Beginning with ¬1 , the inference rule on the left: if Γ follows from the

formulas in ∆ along with A (this is what the sequent above the horizontal

line expresses), then from ∆ alone we can conclude that either some member

of Γ is still true, or else A must be false (the sequent below the horizontal

line). Similar reasoning applies for the inference rule on the right, ¬2 .

Proofs. A proof that a sequent is valid begins with trivial tautologies,

here, that A ` A:

A`A

¬1

` ¬A, A

¬2

¬¬A ` A

As long as each subsequent inference step instantiates a valid inference rule,

the proof guarantees that the final sequent will also be valid. A sequent at

the bottom of such a proof is called a theorem of the logic.

Reading from top to bottom, the first step of the proof here is an in-

stantiation of the inference rule ¬1 . This step concludes that either A or its

negation must be true (a version of the law of excluded middle); the second

step (labeled ¬2 ) proves that two adjacent negations cancel out (the law of

double negation). Proving that A ` ¬¬A is equally easy.

Conjunction. The inference characterizing classical conjunction has two

premises:

∆`A ∆`B

∧

∆`A∧B

If the assumptions in ∆ allow you to prove that A is true (i.e., if ∆ ` A), and

the very same set of assumptions also allow you to prove that B is true, then

you are certainly in a position to assert that the classical conjunction of A

and B must be true.

Disjunction. For disjunction, we have a matched pair of inferences:

∆`A ∆`B

∨1 ∨2

∆`A∨B ∆`A∨B

10:5

Chris Barker

you can conclude that the classical disjunction of A and B is true. After all,

if you know that Ann arrived, then you know that either Ann arrived or Bill

arrived. The reason we need a pair of rules is that disjunction is symmetric,

i.e., we are free to add the new disjunct either on the left or on the right.

The classical duality of conjunction and disjunction. The following

equivalences hold:

(4) a. ¬¬A ≡ A

b. ¬(A ∧ B) ≡ ¬A ∨ ¬B

c. ¬(A ∨ B) ≡ ¬A ∧ ¬B

The last two (DeMorgan’s laws) express the logical interrelationship between

disjunction and conjunction. These equivalences can be thought of as bi-

directional inference rules. In any case, I will freely replace formulas with

forms deemed equivalent by (4).

Weakening. Weakening allows assumptions to be discarded.

∆`Γ

Weak

∆, A ` Γ

no matter what A happens to express. The assumption A is gratuitous, but

harmless. Weakening allows us to pick and choose among evidence as we

focus on different parts of an argument.

Implication as a form of disjunction. Recall that in the definitions of

well-formed formulas, we defined classical implication A → B as an abbrevia-

tion of ¬A ∨ B. The inference rule that characterizes implication is Modus

Ponens, which says that A, A → B ` B is valid. We can prove Modus Ponens

as follows. The main aspect of the proof that is relevant for comparison with

Linear Logic is the role of Weakening.

A`A ¬B ` ¬B

Weak Weak

A, ¬B ` A ¬B, A ` ¬B

∧

¬B, A ` A ∧ ¬B

¬1 , ¬2

A, ¬(A ∧ ¬B) ` ¬¬B

≡

A, A → B ` B

10:6

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

emphasize the differences between classical logic and Linear Logic:

Weak

A, A → B ` A A, A → B ` B

∧

A, A → B ` A ∧ B

left conjunct of the conclusion, and once to support modus ponens in order

to derive the right conjunct of the conclusion. We will see that Linear Logic

requires careful accounting: each assumption can be used exactly once, so

this proof will not go through.

Finally, completing the ¬, ∧, ∨ fragment of classical logic requires Con-

traction: from ∆ ` A, A, infer ∆ ` A. In Linear Logic, Contraction is also

rejected, but Contraction does not play a role in the exposition here.

set of variables over formulas A, B, C, . . . . However, since none of the Linear

Logic connectives mean what their classical counterparts mean, Linear Logic

uses a completely distinct set of connective symbols. Assume A and B are

formulas. Then the linear negation of A, written A⊥ , is a formula; the additive

conjunction of A and B, written A & B (pronounced “A with B”) is a formula;

the multiplicative conjunction of A and B, written A ⊗ B (pronounced “A

times B”) is a formula; the additive disjunction of A and B, written A ⊕ B

(pronounced “A plus B”) is a formula; and the multiplicative disjunction of

&

A and B, written A B (pronounced “A par B”) is a formula. (Many things in

natural language semantics are called ‘additive’. The Linear Logic notions of

‘additive’ and ‘multiplicative’ do not line up with any of them.) In parallel

with the definition of classical implication above, linear implication, written

&

A ( B (pronounced “A lollipop B”), is defined as an abbreviation for A⊥ B.

Sequents. A sequent ∆ ` Γ says that whenever the multiplicative con-

junction of ∆ holds, then the multiplicative disjunction of Γ must hold.

Fragment of Linear Logic for the free choice permission problem. Fig-

ure 1 displays the complete set of rules of Linear Logic that we will use in the

discussion of the free choice permission problem.

10:7

Chris Barker

∆, A ` Γ ∆ ` A, Γ

⊥1 ⊥2

∆ ` A⊥ , Γ ∆, A⊥ ` Γ

Axiom

A`A

A ( B ≡ A⊥

&

B

A⊥⊥ ≡ A

(A & B)⊥ ≡ A⊥ ⊕ B ⊥ (A ⊗ B)⊥ ≡ A⊥ B⊥

&

&

(A

& ⊗

∆`A&B ∆, Γ ` A ⊗ B

⊕1 ⊕2 &

∆`A⊕B ∆`A⊕B ∆`A B

10:8

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

Linear conjunction and disjunction. The rules for & and ⊕ (the ‘additive’

connectives) look exactly like the classical rules for ∧ and ∨, except for the

substitution of & for ∧ and of ⊕ for ∨. However, as a result of how they

interact with the rest of the logic, the linear logic additives behave differently

from their classical counterparts. For instance, the law of the excluded

middle is valid for classical disjunction: ` (¬A) ∨ A. In Linear Logic, the law

of excluded middle is not valid for additive disjunction, despite the fact that

the inference rule for additive disjunction has the same form as the inference

rule for classical disjunction: 6` A⊥ ⊕ A. However, the excluded middle is

&

valid for multiplicative disjunction (` A⊥ A).

Linear negation. We have direct analogs to the classical rules for pushing

a formula across the turnstile, namely, ⊥1 and ⊥2 . Since we now have two

kinds of conjunctions and two kinds of disjunctions, there are more duality

equivalences; however, each conjunction is still dual to a disjunction, and

vice-versa.

Linear implication. Once again, we have defined implication in terms of

disjunction. Now, interestingly, we can prove the linear version of Modus

Ponens without using Weakening (which is a good thing, since Weakening is

not allowed in Linear Logic):

A`A B⊥ ` B⊥

⊗

A, B ⊥ ` A ⊗ B ⊥

⊥1 , ⊥2

A, (A ⊗ B ⊥ )⊥ ` B ⊥⊥

≡

A, A ( B ` B

Because the inference rule for ⊗ splits up the resources (that is, the formulas)

into those used to prove A and those used to prove B, there is no need to

ignore gratuitous assumptions via Weakening.

If we try to reproduce Wadler’s classical proof from the previous section,

we’re out of luck:

?? ` A ?? ` B

⊗

A, A ( B ` A ⊗ B

We could take some of the resources to the left of the turnstile to prove A,

and we could take some (actually, we would need all) of the resources to

prove B, but no matter how we divide up the left-hand formulas, we’ll fall

short of proving one or the other of the conjuncts. Linear Logic requires

strict accounting of assumptions, and we can’t make use of A twice, the way

we could in the classical proof.

10:9

Chris Barker

2.3 Choice

Since free choice permission is about making choices, what does Linear Logic

have to say about choice?

The critical connectives will be the additive conjunction ‘&’ and its (also

additive) disjunctive dual, ‘⊕’. The relevant inference rules are repeated here:

∆`A ∆`B ∆`A ∆`B

& ⊕1 ⊕2

∆`A&B ∆`A⊕B ∆`A⊕B

Imagine yourself in the role of the prover. Then the assumptions on the left

of the turnstile are what your environment gives you to work with, and the

conclusion on the right of the turnstile is what you return as the result of

your labors (perhaps to be used as an assumption in a larger proof).

So here is what the & inference says: if the resources in ∆ allow you to

provide A, and if the same resources allow you to provide B, then you can

certainly offer to provide either A or B. Furthermore, since you are prepared

to provide either alternative, you can leave the choice up to whoever might

be interested in making use of the conclusion. Thus & conjoins two equally

viable alternatives.

Though both alternatives are equally viable, the consumer is forced to

choose between them. For instance, imagine that ∆ contains a certain amount

of sugar and a certain number of eggs. Using the resources provided, you

can construct either a meringue or else an angel food cake, but you don’t

have enough ingredients to cook both. Being as flexible and gracious as

possible, you offer “meringue & cake” for dessert, and you let your guest

choose. Tellingly, “meringue & cake” is pronounced “meringue or cake” in

idiomatic English (this is a point that we will return to in section 7.3).

In the context of granting permission, the consumer is the entity to which

permission has been granted: we shall see that (unembedded) & corresponds

to free choice on the part of the entity given permission.

Continuing with our investigation of choice in Linear Logic, turning to

the ⊕1 inference rule, if the resources in ∆ allow you to provide A, then you

can certainly offer to provide either A ⊕ B — as long as you remain in control

of which of the alternatives is chosen. You may only know how to make

one dessert, perhaps. You can truthfully promise that dessert will either be

meringue or else Baked Alaska, although you know in advance that it will

have to be meringue. (Analogously with the roles reversed for ⊕2 .)

In the context of granting permission, offering A ⊕ B does not give the

grantee free choice.

10:10

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

consider what happens on the other side of the turnstile. Hopping across the

turnstile involves negation, which exchanges & for ⊕ (and vice versa).

These rules follow from the official inference rules by applications of ⊥1 and

⊥2 .

If A alone is enough to enable you to provide ∆, then if someone promises

you A & B, you can certainly commit to providing ∆: just select A when they

give you your choice. (Similarly for the other rule introducing & on the left of

the turnstile.)

Finally, if having A is enough for you to be able to offer ∆, and if having

B is likewise enough for you to be able to offer ∆, then you’re in a position to

promise ∆ even if all you can count on is A ⊕ B. All you know is that you’ll

get either an A or a B, and that which one you get will be someone else’s

choice. However, since you are prepared to cope with either possibility, you

can commit to providing ∆.

The bottom line is that & and ⊕ are two perspectives on a single choice,

differing only in who has the power to make the selection: & provides two

equally legitimate alternatives, but forces an unconstrained (free) choice

between them; ⊕ also provides two alternatives, but reserves the choice for

whoever is providing the resource.

() and permission (♦), and add axioms that characterize an appropriate set of

entailments, usually including at least K and D, though there is considerable

variation; see McNamara 2006 or Portner 2009a for an introduction to deontic

logic. Lokhorst (1997) chooses instead a strategy attributed independently

to Anderson and to Kanger called deontic reduction. Deontic reduction

depends on a special proposition δ (pronounced “yay”), glossed as ‘the good

thing’, or ‘all things are as required’. Thus δ is roughly analogous to Kratzer’s

(e.g., 1991) notion of an ordering source, that is, the set of propositions that

characterize how things ought to be.

Then A is obligatory iff δ ( A: if A follows from the state where all things

are as required, then A is required. Dually, a weak version of permission

10:11

Chris Barker

A is at least not forbidden. However, there is a difference between weak

permission, which is the absence of prohibition, and strong permission, i.e.,

a permissive norm (as discussed in, e.g., Hansen et al. 2007), which is the

assertion that some action is explicitly ok.

Lokhorst (1997) renders strong permission as A ( δ. Viewed from the

linguistics tradition, it is not so easy to make sense out of this as a statement

of permission (as discussed in Portner 2009a:60). It is important to bear in

mind that the ‘strong’ part of ‘strong permission’ does not mean that merely

eating an apple will guarantee that everything is ok, no matter what else

happens. If only permission could be that strong! Rather, the difference

between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ here is the difference between a system in which

we have only obligation and its negation (in which everything that is not

forbidden is permitted), and a more articulated system in which some things

are permitted (A ( δ), some things are forbidden ((A ( δ)⊥ ), and some

things are neither permitted nor forbidden. If I explicitly give you permission

to eat an apple, and I explicitly forbid you to eat a pear, what about eating a

banana? Is it permitted or forbidden? Maybe yes, maybe no.

There is not much discussion of weak permission versus strong per-

mission in the linguistics literature, but at least Asher and Bonevac (2005)

conclude that free choice permission involves strong permission. Certainly

if we want to distinguish between explicit permission and the absence of

prohibition, then we need a logic that can express strong permission. Since I

have claimed that You may eat an apple or a pear crucially neither permits

nor forbids eating both an apple and a pear, we must use strong permission

here.

But what exactly does A ( δ assert, if not that eating an apple will

guarantee the good thing? The key is to consider when A ( δ will be true.

We will be in a situation in which A ( δ just in case eating an apple in

that situation is compatible (‘cotenable’ in the terminology of Relevant Logic)

with all obligations being fulfilled. There are two kinds of such situations:

situations in which eating an apple happens to be obligatory, in which case

we can only conform to obligations by eating the apple (after all, everything

that is obligatory is at least permitted); and situations in which we’re already

in compliance, but eating an apple is optional and does not disturb our happy

state. But if we are otherwise in compliance, and we decide to eat an apple

(A), and we decide to simultaneously kill the postman (K), the fact that apple

eating is permitted will not save us: because of the resource-sensitivity of

10:12

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

linear logic, in particular, the absence of Weakening, we can’t ignore the dead

postman. As a result, the combination of eating an apple and killing the

postman will land us in a situation that is far from ok: A, K, A ( δ 6` δ.

A fuller understanding of linear implication, and therefore of strong

permission, will emerge from the model theory developed in section 8.

One major expository advantage of the reduction strategy is that it enables

us to talk about permission without complicating the logic with inference

rules for and ♦. Note that we do not necessarily give up anything by omit-

ting the unary connectives: McNamara (2006) and Lokhorst (2006) show that

under appropriate additional assumptions, deontic reduction characterizes

all the theorems of standard deontic modal logics.

Not that replicating standard deontic logic should be our goal; after all,

standard deontic logic has A → ¬¬A as a tautology, which imposes a kind

of consistency on the set of deontic obligations. In the linguistics tradition,

a number of people (notably Kratzer (1991)) have argued that this is not

appropriate for describing natural language modality, and that we should

instead allow for inconsistent laws. However, I’m not aware of any reason

why deontic reduction is incompatible with Kratzer’s characterization of

deontic modality.

I should note that deontic reduction is not an innocent choice for the

empirical phenomena under consideration here. As I will explain shortly,

&

because linear implication is defined as A ( B ≡ A⊥ B, the formula for

which permission is granted (i.e., A) occurs in a downward-entailing position.

This will be crucial in deriving the desired entailments. For all I know,

however, it is possible that if a suitable notion of strong permission were

defined in a standard deontic framework (i.e., one based on unary operators

like ), similar entailments would go through.

I intend for deontic reduction to be a convenient expository choice, and

not an essential feature of a resource-sensitive approach to free choice

permission. Nevertheless, there may be some empirical support for the

naturalness of deontic reduction. After all, in addition to being able to use

a modal verb to express permission and obligation, English can also deploy

a conditional: It’s ok if you eat ‘You may eat’. In fact, in Japanese there is

no modal verb that expresses permission, and permission normally can only

be conveyed by means of a conditional construction (Clancy 1985, Akatsuka

1992): tabe-temo ii ‘eat-even.if good’, ‘It’s ok if you eat’.

10:13

Chris Barker

We can now suppose that or has among its meanings ⊕, so that You may

eat an apple or⊕ a pear translates as (a ⊕ p) ( δ: the additive disjunction

of a and p is explicitly permitted. Then the desired free-choice implication

follows directly from simple linear reasoning. Generalizing slightly by using

variables over formulas (A, B) instead of atomic formulas (a, p), we have:

` A, A⊥ ` B, B ⊥

⊕1 ⊕2

` A ⊕ B, A⊥ ` δ⊥ , δ ` A ⊕ B, B ⊥ ` δ⊥ , δ

⊗ ⊗

` (A ⊕ B) ⊗ δ⊥ , A⊥ , δ & ` (A ⊕ B) ⊗ δ⊥ , B ⊥ , δ &

` (A ⊕ B) ⊗ δ⊥ , A⊥ ` (A ⊕ B) ⊗ δ⊥ , B ⊥

& &

δ δ

&

` (A ⊕ B) ⊗ δ⊥ , (A⊥ δ) & (B ⊥

& &

δ)

⊥2 , ≡

(A ⊕ B) ( δ ` (A ( δ) & (B ( δ)

What the speaker provides when she utters You may eat an apple or⊕ a

pear is justification for assuming either that eating an apple is permitted,

or that eating a pear is permitted. She is not providing enough resources

to prove both, so if her utterance is to provide the justification for action,

a choice must be made. However, since the resources allow proof of either

alternative, the consumer is free to choose whichever of the alternatives he

prefers. That is how the addressee has permission to eat an apple, or else

permission to eat a pear, but normally (and certainly not by virtue of the

utterance of (1a)) does not have permission to eat two pieces of fruit.

This result depends on only two assumptions: that or can express ad-

ditive disjunction, and that it is reasonable to represent strong permission

using the deontic reduction strategy. The assumption that or can express

additive disjunction is essential, and is the heart of the explanation offered

here. Deontic reduction is a well-established approach to deontic logic moti-

vated entirely independently of any concern with the free choice permission

problem. Whether it can be replaced with a modal system more familiar to

linguists (if desired) remains for future work.

1 Strictly speaking, since the inference rules given above in section 2.2 are written with a single

formula on the right-hand side, many of the steps given in this proof (for example, the ⊕1

inference) require shuffling extra formulas across the turnstile, applying the inference rule

of interest, then shuffling them all back.

10:14

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

semantic, without requiring any silent pragmatically-triggered type shifting

operators (as in, e.g., Fox 2007), or other pragmatic enrichment.

5 Prohibition

discussions. As mentioned above, Alonso-Ovalle (2006) and Fox (2007) argue

that the fact that free-choice implications seem to disappear under negation

shows that free choice implications are likely to be implicatures. Since I

am claiming that the relevant free choice implications are entailments, it is

important to carefully examine negated cases.

Whatever is not permitted is forbidden: just as in English, Lokhorst

renders (strong) prohibition as negated (strong) permission. Thus if (A (

δ)⊥ , then A is prohibited. (It is a well-known property of English that may

not is always construed with negation taking scope over may.)

b. You may not eat this apple.

c. You may not eat this pear.

The main fact to be explained is that (5a) implies (perhaps entails) (5b) and

(5c). Unlike positive free choice implications, we can usually infer that (5b)

and (5c) hold simultaneously. That is, you cannot comply with (5a) by merely

refraining from eating apples. Apparently, permission is a scarce resource,

but prohibition is all too abundant. I will call this construal of (5a) the double-

prohibition reading, and I will suggest that it arises as a standard Gricean

implicature.

As with most stories about scalar implicatures, we will be concerned with

the epistemic state of the discourse participants.

b. You may not eat this apple or you may not eat this pear.

c. ((A ⊕ B) ( δ)⊥ ` (A ( δ)⊥ ⊕ (B ( δ)⊥

The translation of (6a) entails the translation of (6b) (that is, (6c) is a theorem),

so we predict that (6a) ought to have an interpretation on which it guarantees

that (6b) is true. Such an interpretation is widely attested in the literature,

and usually is described as favoring the continuation . . . but I don’t know

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Chris Barker

Note, by the way, if a forgetful babysitter utters (6) to the child she is

babysitting, if the child behaves rationally, he will not eat either piece of fruit,

since he can’t be sure which action is safe — exactly the same behavior as if

both actions had been explicitly forbidden.

So far, so good. Next, consider a situation in which the speaker is not

ignorant. Exactly one of the alternatives is prohibited, and this time the

speaker knows which one it is. Let’s say that apple-eating is forbidden, but

pear eating is fine. If the speaker were being fully cooperative, then she

would normally choose to simply say (5b), and certainly would not choose to

say (5a). In Gricean terms, adding a superfluous disjunct would violate either

the maxim of Quantity, or the maxim of Manner, or both.

There are nevertheless situations in which this kind of uncooperative

statement might be used. For instance, if a father tells an older sister the

rules (“apples forbidden, pears ok”), she might later uncooperatively tell her

younger brother

(7) You may not eat this apple or this pear . . . but I won’t tell you which.

Once again, the rational course of action on the part of the younger sibling

will be to refrain from eating either piece of fruit. Presumably this is exactly

the outcome the unkind sister is aiming for. (I’m indebted to Sven Lauer for

this scenario; see also Simons 2005:273n.4.)

In both the ignorance scenario and the uncooperative scenario, at least

one of the disjuncts holds, but the choice of which fruit is prohibited belongs

to the master, not the slave. The subject of the prohibition must plan for the

worst, and therefore can’t safely commit to either alternative.

Finally, imagine that the speaker is neither ignorant nor uncooperative.

She may be an expert (perhaps she just received full instructions from the

parents) or she may be herself the source from which permission flows; in

any case, she is fully opinionated about what is forbidden. Crucially, although

(6) guarantees only one disjunct, it is consistent with situations in which

both disjuncts hold. As just argued, if exactly one disjunct held, the speaker

would simply have said so. We can deduce, therefore, that both disjuncts

must hold.

There is one more step to complete the Gricean explanation. If the speaker

intends to convey double prohibition, why not use and?

10:16

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

it certainly also has a reading on which it prohibits (only) complex events

that involve eating both an apple and a pear. Uttering (8), then, leaves in

play the possibility that eating a single piece of fruit may be permitted. The

speaker uses a weak form in (6) to express a stronger meaning in order to

avoid misinterpretation.

Thus the assumption that the speaker is opinionated and cooperative de-

rives the implicature that both disjuncts are prohibited via ordinary Gricean

reasoning, without the need to stipulate any special uniformity or distributiv-

ity axioms (as in Alonso-Ovalle 2006) or Zimmermann’s (2000:286) Authority

Principle.

A number of authors, including Schulz (2005) and Fox (2007), suggest that

free choice implications are implicatures that arise in contexts in which the

speaker is opinionated about which options are permitted and which are not.

Fox (2007) reasons as follows: if a speaker utters a disjunction when she

could have made a stronger statement, this could naturally lead to a Quantity

implicature that she did not have sufficient evidence to assert the stronger

statement. If those ignorance implicatures are implausible, as when the

speaker is describing permissions in a situation in which their judgment is

authoritative, the implausibility can trigger a repair strategy under which the

disjunction is pragmatically enriched by the application of a predicate exh

(for “exhaustive”). For instance, if an authoritative speaker says You may eat

an apple or a pear, it may be implausible that she doesn’t know whether you

may eat an apple, or whether you may eat a pear. Therefore the statement

♦(A ∨ P ) can be strengthened (given a number of additional assumptions) to

an exhaustive meaning equivalent to the proposition ♦A ∧ ♦P ∧ ¬(♦(A ∧ P )).

This asserts that you may have an apple, and you may have a pear, but you

may not both have an apple and a pear.

I will discuss three potential problems with these accounts. The first

problem is that the free-choice reading can survive even in the presence of

manifest ignorance on the part of the speaker:

10:17

Chris Barker

ible with ignorance, (9) should only have a reading on which it means ‘I don’t

know whether you may have an apple or whether you may have a pear’. But

(9) robustly also has a free-choice reading on which it means ‘I don’t know

whether you may eat a piece of fruit, where the fruit is your choice between

an apple or a pear’.

(10) If it turns out that John may have an apple or a pear, he’ll choose the

pear.

able for the antecedent of a conditional, where it is far from clear how

assumptions about complete knowledge of the alternatives could enter in.

The second problem is that if free choice implications were implicatures,

we should expect them to be generally cancelable:

(11) You may eat an apple or a pear, although in fact you may not eat an

apple.

consistent. If this were the basic semantic meaning of (11), then we would

expect it to emerge whenever the free-choice implication is cancelled. The

puzzling thing is that if we assume the speaker is opinionated, (11) gives a

strong impression of contradiction rather than of a cancelled implicature.

Chemla (2009a, 2009b) proposes a pragmatic principle that he calls

symmetry, which says that the epistemic attitude of the speaker must be

uniform across disjuncts. Symmetry correctly predicts that (11) should

be infelicitous, since it implies that the speaker holds a different attitude

towards one disjunct than towards the other. However, symmetry alone

cannot explain why (11) sounds contradictory.

One possibility is that performativity is interfering. Portner (2009b)

suggests that performative uses (see section 7.2 below) force, or at least

strongly promote, a free choice interpretation. If so, then what (11) shows

is that at least when an utterance is performative, free choice implications

cannot be cancelled.

The third problem applies to Fox’s account, though not to Schulz’s: as

Fox himself notes, the proposed implicatures for the free-choice reading do

not match intuitions about the meanings of the sentences in question. Fox’s

exh-enhanced truth conditions assert that eating an apple is permitted, and

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Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

eating a pear is permitted, but eating an apple and a pear is forbidden. But

as Simons (2005) and others observe, free choice is compatible with joint

permission. For instance,

You may (certainly) eat an apple or a pear.

the final clause. However, although (12) may be mildly redundant, there is no

hint of contradiction.

Franke (2009:8) and van Rooij (2010:18) derive results similar to Fox’s

by using a particular game-theoretic technique (“Iterated Best Response”) to

compute implicatures. One advantage of their approach is that the proposi-

tion that eating both an apple and a pear is forbidden arises as an implicature

only when certain alternatives are salient, correctly predicting that (12) need

not be a contradiction.

On the account here, of course, the explanation for the fact that (12) is

not a contradiction is particularly simple and direct: You may eat an apple or

a pear entails that you may eat an apple, and that you may eat a pear, but

refrains from saying anything about whether it’s ok to eat both an apple and

a pear. It neither grants permission to eat two pieces of fruit, nor forbids it.

Van Rooij frames the comparison between exhaustivity and game theory

as part of the debate about embedded implicatures: if free choice implications

can be handled using iterated best response, then free choice no longer

provides an argument that implicatures must be calculated locally (i.e., in

embedded contexts). The resource-sensitive approach here weakens the

argument that free choice motivates embedded implicatures even further, by

calling into question whether free choice implications are implicatures in the

first place.

epistemic alternatives, so that You may eat an apple or you may eat a pear

expresses the claim that it is possible that you may eat an apple and it is

possible that you may eat a pear. Novel pragmatic principles (notably his

Authority Principle) strengthen this conjunction into an assertion that you

may eat an apple and you may eat a pear.

10:19

Chris Barker

tive alternatives should not always be epistemic. Rather, disjunction “fuses”

with nearby modal operators, so that You may eat an apple or a pear means

that you may eat an apple and you may eat a pear without needing to invoke

any special pragmatic principle.

Neither Zimmermann’s nor Geurts’ analyses explain why the free-choice

or differs from an overt and (i.e., You may eat an apple and you may eat

a pear) in failing to guarantee that two pieces of fruit may be eaten. In

addition, as Geurts (2005:406) briefly discusses, it is not clear how either

analysis accounts for negated free choice (discussed above in section 5).

Zimmermann’s idea that disjunction introduces a set of alternatives has

been implemented in a variety of ways. I will mention three here.

Kratzer and Shimoyama (2002) propose that indefinites contribute a set

of alternatives, one for each way of resolving the indefinite. This requires in

turn a modification of the basic compositional semantics, since it is necessary

to allow for composition with sets of meanings instead of single meanings.

This is done pointwise using “Hamblin semantics”, so that an embedded

indefinite can give rise to a set of alternatives at higher compositional levels

(see Shan 2004 for discussion of the complexities of pointwise composition).

Alonso-Ovalle (2006) extends this strategy from indefinites to disjunction,

explicitly addressing the free choice problem.

Aloni’s (2007) approach manages disjunction-alternatives within a dy-

namic semantics based on Dekker 2002, supplemented with structured propo-

sitions.

Van Rooij (2008:309) sketches yet a third implementation, on which

alternatives are built into the definition of a minimal extension of a world.

Then a world in which you eat only an apple might qualify as a minimal

extension of the world we are in, but not a world in which you eat both an

apple and a pear. In order to deliver free choice implications, it is necessary

for the propositions expressed by a disjunction to always be among those

used for articulating minimal extensions, though this requirement is not

guaranteed by the formal analysis.

In these approaches, free choice effects arise when certain operators

explicitly manipulate alternative sets. For instance, Aloni stipulates that

may(Φ) is true (where Φ is a set of alternatives) just in case the ordinary

meaning of may is true of each alternative. Thus You may eat an apple or a

pear involves applying may to the set of alternatives corresponding to the

addressee eating an apple and the addressee eating a pear. The sentence will

10:20

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

be true, then, just in case You may eat an apple is true and You may eat a

pear is true.

The account here resembles Aloni’s alternatives account in two important

respects. First, free choice implications are entailments rather than implica-

tures. As we saw in section 6.1, the fact that free choice implications do not

always seem to be cancelable argues in favor of theories on which they are

treated as entailments.

Second, because alternative-taking may requires that ordinary may must

be true of every alternative, it is a downward-entailing operator with re-

spect to the disjunction that gives rise to the alternatives. Aloni points out

that this explains why (so-called free choice) any is licensed (e.g., You may

eat anything), and since the antecedent of linear implication is likewise a

downward-entailing position (as noted above), the same explanation carries

over here. (Of course, there is more to free choice than placing an indefinite

in a downward entailing context. For instance, a referee observes that in

some Romance languages, some free-choice indefinites are licensed under

permission, but not in the antecedent of conditionals or in other downward

entailing contexts.)

One important difference between the approach here and alternative-

based analysis, including Aloni’s, is the integration with the larger compo-

sitional system. The alternative-set approach in effect creates unbounded

dependencies in the semantics: or introduces alternatives which the compo-

sitional system must track until an alternative-aware operator collapses the

alternatives back into to a single proposition. The account here adjusts only

the denotations of the logical connectives, leaving the compositional system

entirely undisturbed. (Not that I had provided a compositional analysis,

though I trust that appropriate details can easily be supplied.)

7 Issues

deontic modals should be the same thing that explains the similar behavior

of epistemic modals:

b. John might be in Aarhaus.

c. John might be in Boston.

10:21

Chris Barker

In parallel with the permission cases, the disjunction in (13a) entails (13b) and

(13c).

The simplest way to extend the account here to epistemic cases would

be to add to our logic a new atomic formula , which is true just in case

everything that is epistemically known holds. Then You might be in Aarhaus

would translate as A ( , and the desired entailments follow as a matter of

logic.

Adding an epsilon to the logic is more than a superficial change. It is im-

portant to keep track of what the logic claims to be modeling. Classical logic

promises to preserve truth: if the assumptions are true, the conclusion will

be true. Since truth is not resource sensitive (if something is true once, it is

true again and again), that is why it is legitimate to duplicate and discard as-

sumptions. Linear Logic promises to preserve resources: whatever resources

the assumptions provide, that is exactly what resources will appear in the

conclusion. In our deontic application, the critical resource is permission:

if the assumptions provide enough permission to eat exactly one piece of

fruit, then the conclusion will provide the same amount of permission. In

the epistemic case, the critical resource is epistemic commitment: whatever

commitments are made by the assumptions, the conclusion will make exactly

the same commitments.

There are other important differences between deontic logic and epistemic

logic. For instance, it is generally considered desirable for an epistemic logic

to guarantee that if you know that A is true, then A is true (A ` A). But

deontically, you would not want to conclude from the fact that A is obligatory

that A must hold, since obligations are all too often not fulfilled. More

relevantly, there are empirical dis-analogies between the free choice behavior

of deontic uses of modals versus epistemic modals. For instance, Kamp

(1978), Zimmermann (2000), and Aloni (2007) note that it is significantly more

difficult to construe epistemic modals as having a . . . but I don’t know which

interpretation (though it is still possible — see especially Simons 2005:274).

I’m not aware of any reason why a reduction strategy could not be part

of a more complete analysis of epistemic modality; nevertheless, it would

be prudent to be cautious about assuming that any deontic analysis should

automatically extend to epistemic cases.

In addition to the possibility that free choice effects may occur in other

modalities, Fox (2007) argues that free choice effects can be discerned in

non-modal contexts that involve existential quantifiers.

10:22

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

Especially when (14) is heard as an implicit permissive, (14) entails both that

there is beer in the fridge and that there is beer in the cooler out back. Both

alternatives are guaranteed to be true, and the consumer of the information

has free choice of which one is relevant for forming a plan of action.

Klinedinst (2007) suggests that free choice effects are present with some

existential quantifiers, but only when the quantificational DP is plural:

b. A passenger got sick or had difficulty breathing.

In (15a), there is a reading on which some passengers got sick, and some had

difficulty breathing. On such a reading, at least some of the passengers must

have gotten sick, and at least some of the passengers must have had difficulty

breathing. But in (15b), there is no guarantee that both of the properties must

be instantiated.

Having mentioned these facts, I will not attempt a discussion here of the

interaction of free choice with quantifiers or with plurals. See Chemla 2009a

for experimental evidence and relevant discussion.

7.2 Performativity

ing permission, where granting permission is a performative action. When

a parent says You may eat an apple or a pear in the right circumstances,

fruit-eating options may come into being that were not present before the

utterance. But when a sibling comments later Apparently, you may eat an

apple or a pear, they are merely describing the current situation, and no

new options come into being. Van Rooij (2008) and Portner (2009b) de-

velop a dynamic semantics for permission on which a permission sentence

performatively changes the set of what is allowed.

One of the main arguments that performativity is important relies on

correlations between performative uses and the availability of free choice

interpretations. Certainly descriptive uses (such the sibling’s comment) can

have a free choice interpretation or not. Performatives, however, strongly pre-

fer a free choice interpretation. Yet it may still be possible for a performative

to have a non-free choice interpretation:

10:23

Chris Barker

(16) You may pillage city X or city Y. But first take counsel with my secre-

tary.

Kamp (1973:67; see also Kamp 1978:279) says of this example that “[t]he

second part of this statement makes it clear that the vassal should not infer

from the first part that he may make his own choice of city. Which one he may

loot ultimately depends on the secretary’s advice, the tenor of which — we

may assume — is at this point unknown to king and vassal alike.” To be

sure, nothing specific has been permitted, and the vassal cannot form a

complete plan of action. If we conceive of a performative as something that

enlarges what an agent may safely do, we might therefore suppose that (16) is

a merely descriptive use, since it does not by itself allow the vassal to act. Yet

something must have been permitted: where does the disjunctive permission

that the sentence describes come from, if not from the performance of (16)?

As far as the current paper is concerned, it is enough for permission

sentences to characterize what is allowed. Then whether an utterance ex-

pands the sphere of permissibility depends on the interaction of the truth

conditions with the normal range of factors that influence how a discourse

participant decides to react to an utterance. Whether this minimalist strategy

is viable, or whether it will ultimately be necessary to provide a special role

for performativity remains to be seen. (See Kamp 1978 for extensive, but

ultimately inconclusive, discussion.)

how free choice implications arise when or takes scope over the permission

modal.

b. You may eat an apple or you may eat a pear.

The account of free choice given so far does not explain why (17b) also has a

free choice interpretation.

Simons proposes an across-the-board LF movement operation on which

the sentence with unembedded or is predicted to be logically equivalent to

You may [eat an apple or eat a pear]. That approach is compatible with the

account of free choice here.

10:24

Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

consideration: perhaps resource-sensitive or is ambiguous between ⊕ (the

translation we’ve given it so far) and &.

After all, there is no other lexical item that is a candidate for expressing &.

For instance, as mentioned above, if you have ingredients for either meringue

or angel food cake, but only enough to make one recipe, and someone asks

‘What’s for dessert?’, the answer is meringue or& cake, never meringue and&

cake.

A second intriguing clue comes from conditionals. In Linear Logic,

strengthening of the antecedent is valid for & but not for ⊗. That is, we

have A ( C ` (A & B) ( C but A ( C 6` (A ⊗ B) ( C. The observation

that and never expresses & explains why trying to strengthen an antecedent

using and in English does not work: If John left, we could all play bridge does

not entail If John left and Mary left, we could all play bridge. But if or has a

conjunctive use, then we could explain why the inference does seem valid if

we use or: If John left or& Mary left, we could all play bridge.

If or can express &, then the ability of (17b) to serve as a paraphrase of

(17a) is immediately explained: it translates directly as (A ( δ) & (B ( δ),

and it is easy to prove that (A ( δ) & (B ( δ) ` (A ⊕ B) ( δ.

Of course, if or had such a conjunctive use, we would expect it to occur

in embedded position too, for example, You may eat an apple or& a pear. But

this is harmless, and merely gives a different route to the . . . but I don’t know

which reading, which we derived above by giving (disjunctive) or wide scope.

More problematically, we would also expect a conjunctive or to be avail-

able in non-modal sentences. Then saying that John left or& Mary left would

offer the addressee free choice of which disjunct to believe, yet would license

belief in at most one of the disjuncts. Such a meaning does not appear to be

available.

Put another way, non-modal uses of or appear to always be classical

disjunction (this is hardly surprising). One notable feature of Linear Logic

is that the classical connectives are easily expressible, given the addition of

the so-called exponential operators, ! (pronounced ‘of course’) and ? (‘why

not?’): from ∆ ` !A infer ∆ ` A, !A); from ?A ` ∆ infer ` ∆. These operators

allow a richer control over resources in which assumptions can be used

repeatedly, as in contraction, or ignored, as in weakening. Given Linear

Logic with exponentials, we can choose a more relaxed classical resource

management regime, or a more fussy pure Linear Logic regime, as needed.

For instance, the classical disjunction of A and B can be expressed as !A ⊕ !B.

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Chris Barker

with classical reasoning, as long as we can reliably tell which kind of resource

management to use in any given context. To a first approximation in English,

linear resource management appears to be relevant only for untensed clauses

with bare verb forms, as in You may eat an apple or eat a pear, in which or

takes scope over the untensed bare verb phrases eat an apple and eat a pear.

Then we could suppose the reason that John left or Mary left does not have

a conjunctive interpretation is because the tensed clauses trigger (only) a

classical interpretation of or.

Figuring out how to regulate the distribution of an ambiguous or would

be a major undertaking, so I leave this issue unresolved for now.

The discussion so far has been conducted entirely in terms of inference rules

and proofs. It is unusual these days, though not unheard of, to express

the meaning of natural language using proof theory without giving a model

theory. More often, of course, we have the opposite situation, in which

semantic analyses provide models without any proof theory.

The most complete picture, however, emerges when proof theory and

model theory complement each other. Therefore I will discuss models for

Linear Logic here, with a detailed illustration of a free choice example.

There are a number of semantic approaches to Linear Logic. Girard’s

(1987, 1995) original semantics in terms of coherence spaces and in terms of

phase spaces would not be directly helpful here. There are other semantic

approaches, however, that have tantalizing associations with the granting

and denying of permission. I will mention three. First, Petri nets describe

the movement of tokens through a network. Lokhorst (1997) uses Petri nets

as models of his Linear Logic treatment of deontic reasoning. (Think of the

tokens as lumps of permission moving from one location to another.) Second,

in game semantics a Proponent and an Opponent take turns making choices,

and I have argued that tracking choice is central to understanding permission

talk. See, e.g., Accorsi and van Benthem 1999 for a discussion of game

semantics for Linear Logic. Third, there are computational models of Linear

Logic that make an explicit connection between the additives and choice. For

example, Abramsky’s (1993) computational semantics for intuitionistic Linear

Logic interprets A ⊗ B as an ordered pair hA, Bi both of whose elements

will be used in further computation (eager evaluation); A & B, on the other

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Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

hand, denotes an ordered pair only one of whose elements will ever be used

(lazy evaluation), and of course A ⊕ B delivers a projection function that

chooses one or the other of the elements in a & pair. Unfortunately for our

purposes here, Abramsky’s computational interpretation of classical Linear

Logic involves parallel distributed processing, which would take us too far

afield.2

Most reassuringly familiar for linguists, Allwein and Dunn (1993) provide

a kosher Kripke-style possible worlds semantics, and that is the approach

that I will present here.

Following Allwein and Dunn, the expository strategy will be to begin with

an algebraic model that is faithful to the inference rules, then show how to

reconstruct that algebra in terms of worlds.

The algebraic model contains three main components: a lattice for modeling

the additive connectives, a unary operation for modeling negation, and a

binary operation for modeling the multiplicative connectives.

Additives: let A, ∧, and ∨ form a bounded lattice with partial order ≤ and

top and bottom elements. The lattice can be finite or non-finite, and it can be

distributive or non-distributive.

Negation: now let ∼ be a DeMorgan negation on that lattice. This means

that ∼ must be order-reversing (for all x, y in A, x ≤ ∼y iff y ≤ ∼x), and it

must be involutive (for all x in A, ∼∼x ≤ x).

Multiplicatives: we add a commutative, associative binary operation ◦

with identity element t (that is, t ◦ a = a = a ◦ t for all a in A). Thus A,◦, and

t form a commutative monoid. Note that t may be distinct from the top of

the lattice. The monoid operation must distribute over the join operation,

that is, for all a, b, c ∈ A : a ◦ (b ∨ c) = (a ◦ b) ∨ (a ◦ c). It must also be

compatible with negation in the sense that for all a, b ∈ A : a ◦ b ≤ c iff

a ◦ ∼c ≤ ∼b (“antilogism”).

2 Though it is intriguing to think that the meaning of some natural language expressions might

be appropriately modeled by a distributed process. Perhaps some permission sentences

denote programs which the recipient can execute in various environments in order to

produce whichever certificate of permission is required. Then a free choice permission

sentence denotes a program whose execution is blocked until it receives an external choice

(a selection of which alternative to deploy).

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Chris Barker

atomic formulas onto elements of A, we extend v to complex formulas as

follows: v(A⊥ ) = ∼v(A); v(A & B) = v(A) ∧ v(B); v(A ⊕ B) = v(A) ∨ v(B);

&

v(A ⊗ B) = v(A) ◦ v(B); v(A B) = ∼(∼v(A) ◦ ∼v(B)); and v(A ( B) =

∼(v(A) ◦ ∼v(B)).

As an example, I will present a six-element, non-distributive lattice:

5 ∼ ◦ 0 1 2 3 4 5

0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

3 4

1 3 1 0 1 2 1 2 5

2 4 2 0 2 1 2 1 5

1 2 3 1 3 0 1 2 3 4 5

4 2 4 0 2 1 4 3 5

0 5 0 5 0 5 5 5 5 5

The Hasse diagram on the left gives the lattice order in the usual way, so that

0 ≤ 1, 1 ≤ 3, and so on. In addition, since ≤ is reflexive and transitive, we

also have 0 ≤ 0, 0 ≤ 3, etc.

Since meet (∧) in a lattice is the unique greatest lower bound, it can be

read off the Hasse diagram, e.g., 5 ∧ 5 = 5, 4 ∧ 5 = 4, 4 ∧ 3 = 0, and so on

(dually for the join operation ∨).

It is easy to see by inspection that the negation relation ∼ is involutive

(e.g., ∼∼3 = 3) and order reversing (e.g., along with 0 ≤ ∼3 we have 3 ≤ ∼0).

Note that 3 serves as the identity element t of the monoid. Since the

monoid operation is commutative, the matrix is symmetric across the top-left

to bottom-right diagonal (e.g., 4◦2 = 2◦4). Furthermore, mechanical checking

will confirm that the monoid operation is associative (e.g., (4 ◦ 2) ◦ 1 = 4 ◦ (2 ◦

1)), that it distributes over the join operation (e.g., 3◦(1∨4) = (3◦1)∨(3◦4)),

and that it respects the antilogism requirement (e.g., 4 ◦ 2 ≤ 3 ≡ 4 ◦ ∼3 ≤ ∼2).

A sequent Γ semantically entails ∆ (written ‘Γ î ∆’) just in case the

valuation of the multiplicative conjunction of the formulas in Γ is dominated

by the valuation of the multiplicative disjunction of the formulas in ∆. For

instance, since x ∧ y ≤ x for all x, y in A by the definition of meet in a

lattice, we have that A & B î A.

To illustrate how these tables provide a model of the logic, recall that we

have the following three theorems discussed in previous sections and one

non-theorem:

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Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

(18) a. (A ( δ) & (B ( δ) ` (A ⊕ B) ( δ

b. (A ⊕ B) ( δ ` (A ( δ) & (B ( δ)

c. (A ( δ) ⊕ (B ( δ) ` (A & B) ( δ

d. (A & B) ( δ 6` (A ( δ) ⊕ (B ( δ)

If the given algebra is a faithful model of Linear Logic, we expect that for

every valuation v assigning a lattice element to the propositional symbols

δ, A, and B, the valuation of the left hand side of any theorem will be

dominated (in the sense of the lattice order ≤) by the valuation of the right

hand side. This is the case for (18) (a) through (c), but we have a countermodel

for (18d): if v(δ) = 0, v(A) = 1, and v(B) = 2, then v((A & B) ( δ) =

v(((A & B) ⊗ δ⊥ )⊥ ) = ∼((v(A) ∧ v(B)) ◦ ∼v(δ)) = ∼((1 ∧ 2) ◦ ∼0) = 5. But

v((A ( δ) ⊕ (B ( δ)) = 0, and 5 6≤ 0.

There are (infinitely) many other possible choices for a lattice, and for

any given lattice, there may be many choices for a suitable negation and for

a suitable monoid operation. For instance, Restall (2000:170) gives an even

simper (but still instructive) model of (distributive) Linear Logic based on a

four-element lattice. Since Linear Logic is sound and complete with respect

to the class of algebraic models given here, a sequent is a theorem iff its left

hand side semantically entails its right hand side for every valuation in every

model.

merely recapitulates the inference rules; for the same reason, it may not

add any insight beyond what is already evident from the inference rules

themselves. Constructing a Kripke-style possible worlds semantics is a bit

more complicated, but may allow natural language semanticists to transfer

some of their intuitions from more familiar sorts of semantics for natural

languages. We shall see that one particularly intriguing feature of the Kripke

semantics for Linear Logic is that there will be three possibilities for the

status of a formula at a world: it may be true, false, or neither true nor false,

which is exactly what makes Linear Logic suitable for modeling actions that

may be permitted, forbidden, or neither permitted nor forbidden.

Allwein and Dunn associate each element in A with a particular set of

worlds. The construction goes as follows. Consider pairs of the form hF , Ii,

where F and I are sets of points in the lattice. We require hF , Ii to satisfy the

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Chris Barker

(w1): F and I must be disjoint.

Second,

(w2): F must be closed upward under ≤, so that for all a ∈ F and for all

b ∈ A : (a ≤ b) implies b ∈ F . Dually, I must be closed downward under ≤,

so that for all a ∈ A and for all b ∈ I : (a ≤ b) implies a ∈ I. In particular, F

always contains the top element, and I always contains the bottom element

of the lattice.

Third, F and I must be closed under meets and joins, respectively. That

is:

(w3): for all a, b ∈ F : a ∧ b ∈ F ; and for all a, b ∈ I : a ∨ b ∈ I.

In other words, conditions (w2) and (w3) require that F must be a filter,

and that I must be an ideal.

Finally, there is a maximality condition:

Maximality: A filter/ideal pair hF , Ii satisfying (w1), (w2), and (w3) satisfies

maximality only if there is no other distinct pair of sets hF 0 , I 0 i also satisfying

(w1), (w2) and (w3) that properly includes the first, i.e., such that F ⊆ F 0 and

I ⊆ I 0.

Here are a few of the possible pairs of subsets that fail to satisfy the

requirements:

h{1, 2}, {1, 3}i violates w1

h{3}, {0}i violates w2

h{4, 3, 5}, {0}i violates w3

h{4, 5}, {0}i violates Maximality

In fact, in this model there are exactly four maximal disjoint filter/ideal pairs:

World a: h{4, 5}, {0, 2}i

World b: h{3, 5}, {0, 1}i

World c: h{2, 4, 5}, {0, 1, 3}i

World d: h{1, 3, 5}, {0, 2, 4}i

These pairs will stand in one to one correspondence with our possible worlds.

For each world w = hF , Ii, we will interpret F as the set of points that are

true at w, and I as the set of points that are false at w.

For worlds c and d, every point in the lattice is either true or false. But

for world a, points 1 and 3 are neither true nor false. Similarly, for world

b, points 2 and 4 are neither true nor false. In terms of permission talk,

there may be situations in which some things are permitted, some things are

forbidden, and some things are neither permitted nor forbidden.

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Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

The next step is to associate each point in the lattice with a set of worlds.

If w is a world associated with the pair of sets of points hF , Ii, let w1 indicate

F and w2 indicate I. Then we can define a map β that takes each point p in

the lattice onto the set of worlds w such that p ∈ w1 :

β(0) = {}

β(1) = {d}

β(2) = {c}

β(3) = {b, d}

β(4) = {a, c}

β(5) = {a, b, c, d}

In other words, we map each point in the lattice to the set of worlds that

make it true.

We now need to define relations over sets of worlds that will allow us to

reconstruct the logical operations we want to model: ∧, ∨, ∼, and ◦.

The meet operation is straightforward. We extend β in the following way:

β(p ∧ q) = β(p) ∩ β(q). So meet corresponds to simple set intersection.

Thus 4 ∧ 2 = 2, and β(4 ∧ 2) = β(4) ∩ β(2) = {a, c} ∩ {c} = {c} = β(2).

The join operation is not quite so straightforward. We cannot represent

join as set union. To see why, note that 3 ∨ 2 = 5, but β(3) ∪ β(2) =

{b, d} ∪ {c} = {b, c, d} 6= β(5). The solution is to exploit the information

present in the second element in the pair of sets that define the worlds. To

do this, we define two operations on sets of worlds. Let W be our set of

worlds, and let C be any subset of W :

Although l and r are defined over all subsets of W , we will only need to apply

them in the following cases:

r (β(0)) = r ({}) = {a, b, c, d}

r (β(1)) = r ({d}) = {b, c}

r (β(2)) = r ({c}) = {a, d}

r (β(3)) = r ({b, d}) = {c}

r (β(4)) = r ({a, c}) = {d}

r (β(5)) = r ({a, b, c, d}) = {}

For instance, the reason a is not in r (β(1)) is because a2 ⊆ d2 , but d ∈ β(1).

Allwein and Dunn show that for all points p in the lattice, l(r (β(p))) = β(p).

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Chris Barker

We can now define join by shifting the conjuncts using r , then taking their

intersection, then shifting back using l: β(p ∨ q) = l(r (β(p)) ∩ r (β(q))). For

instance, we have β(1 ∨ 3) = l(r (β(1)) ∩ r (β(3)) = l({b, c} ∩ {c}) = l({c}) =

β(3). Trying the problematic case given above, β(3 ∨ 2) = l(r (β(3)) ∩

r (β(2))) = l({c} ∩ {a, d}) = l({}) = {a, b, c, d} = β(5), as desired.

At this point, β, l, and r allow us to fully simulate the structure of the

lattice in terms of sets of worlds.

Representing negation: β(∼p) = {x|h∼x2 , ∼x1 i ∈ r (β(p))} (where apply-

ing ∼ to a set of points returns the set resulting from applying ∼ to each mem-

ber of the original set). For instance, we have β(∼1) = {h∼{0, 1}, ∼{3, 5}i,

h∼{0, 1, 3}, ∼{2, 4, 5}i} = {b, d} = β(3).

Note that linear negation expresses something about provability, not

about falsity. One way to see this is to observe that in this model, 3 and its

negation ∼3 = 1 are both true at world d.

Representing the tensor relation ◦ proceeds in two steps. In the usual

Kripke semantics, unary modal operators are characterized by an accessibility

relation, a two-place relation over worlds. Because the multiplicatives are

two-place connectives, we will need a three-place relation.3

Relevant Logic. The goal is for the relation S to capture all of the information

present in the monoid operation ◦. In order to do this, it needs to take ad-

vantage of both sets of points that define the worlds: the set of propositions

that are true at a world as well as those that are false at that world.

Conceptually, S models modus ponens, in which x plays the role of

antecedent, y plays the role of the implication, and z plays the role of the

consequent. If the implication is true at y, and the consequent is false at z, S

guarantees that the antecedent must be false at x. For instance, since 3 (role:

the implication) is true at b and 1 ◦ 3 (the consequent) is false at c, but 1

(the antecedent) is not false at a, S does not hold of a, b, and c. We do have

Saba, however. The complete relation is aab, aba, baa, bbb, caa, cad,

cbb, cbc, cca, ccd, cdb, cdc, dab, dac, dba, dbd, dcb, dcc, dda, ddd.

Once we have constructed S as a function of ◦, we can define multiplicative

3 Lambek grammars (e.g., Moortgat 1997) also use a three place relation to give a semantics

for a multiplicative conjunction, where the conjunction is used to model concatenation of

linguistic expressions. For an example of modus ponens in type-logical grammar, DP ⊗

DP \S ` S.

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Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

now have both an algebraic and a possible worlds semantics in correspon-

dence, we can move back and forth between the two semantics in search of

insight.

Begin with the algebra. We can keep track of the state of our reasoning

process by picking out a point in the lattice. Assume that I have good

reason to believe we are located at lattice position 1. This is a highly specific

situation: I know that we are located on world d, since that is the only world

at which 1 is true.

Now assume that I learn something: that you have eaten a pear. Call this

fact B, and associate it with lattice point 4 (i.e., let v(B) = 4). To find out

where we are now, I compute 1 ◦ 4 = 2. Since β(1 ◦ 4) = β(2) = {c}, we are

now on world c. Learning that you have eaten an apple changes our location

from world d to world c.

This may initially seem somewhat distressing. In the usual Stalnakerian

system, adding information is typically a monotonic process of eliminating

possible worlds. If we’ve already narrowed the set of live options to a single

world d, there is no way to end up on a distinct world c. Because ◦ is non-

monotonic in this sense, it may be better to think of what we have been

calling worlds as classes of worlds. Sometimes the term ‘set-up’ is used

instead of ‘world’. I will use the term ‘situation’. Then learning that you have

eaten an pear changes the current situation into a different situation, one in

which the consequences of having eaten a pear obtain.

Let’s continue to reason. We pick a point in the lattice to serve as A, the

situation in which you eat an apple, and a separate point to serve as δ, the

situation in which all obligations are fulfilled. Say that v(A) = 2, v(δ) = 3,

and v(B) is still 4. Now consider the proposition that eating an apple is

permitted: A ( δ. Then v(A ( δ) = v((A ⊗ δ⊥ )⊥ ) = ∼(v(A) ◦ ∼v(δ)) =

∼(2 ◦ ∼3) = ∼(2 ◦ 1) = ∼2 = 4. Apparently, in this model, the situation

in which you eat a pear is modeled by the same situation in which you are

permitted to eat an apple. (This sort of coincidence is unavoidable in such a

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Chris Barker

tiny model, in the same way that a valuation for classical logic will be forced

to map very different formulas to the same truth value.)

So let’s say that I know we’re in a situation in which you are permitted

to eat an apple (say, point 4), and then I learn that you have eaten an apple.

Perhaps I watch you eat it. This changes things: I compute 4 ◦ 2 = 1.

Thanks to your eating an apple, we’re now in situation 1. And since 1 ≤ 3,

things are as they are supposed to be. In terms of worlds, δ is modeled by

worlds (situations) b and d; and since point 1 corresponds to (a singleton set

containing only) world d, we must be in a δ-world.

So, what if you are permitted to eat an apple or a pear? That’s ∼((2 ∨ 4) ◦

∼3) = 4. We just saw that if we start at 4 and you an apple, we land on a

δ-world. And indeed, if we’re at point 4 and you eat a pear instead, 4 ◦ 4 = 3,

and once again we’re in a δ-situation.

But what if you eat an apple and you eat a pear? 4 ◦ 4 ◦ 2 = 2. Situation

2 is not a δ situation, so things are not ok. Having permission to eat an

apple or a pear is not the same thing as having permission to eat an apple

and a pear. Likewise, if killing the postman is modeled by situation 4 (i.e.,

v(K) = 4), then eating an apple and killing the postman will definitely not

leave us in a δ-situation. (This small model is somewhat unrealistic, however,

in that there are situations in which eating an apple, killing the postman, and

then eating another apple is perfectly permissible.)

However, as emphasized above, having permission to eat an apple or a

pear is compatible with also having permission to eat both. Making use of

the same model, if we have v(A) = v(δ) = v(B) = 3, then v((A & B) ( δ) =

v((A ⊗ B) ( δ) = 3. With this valuation, eating apples and pears is truly

optional: you can eat an apple and stop, or you can eat a pear and stop, or

you can eat an apple and you can eat a pear, and in all three cases you’ll end

up in a δ-situation.

9 Conclusions

that permission is a scarce resource, and so permission talk requires a

resource-sensitive semantics. Following Lokhorst (1997), I propose Linear

Logic as a way of tracking permission: not only what kind of permission has

been granted, but how much. Then primary free choice implications (given

You may eat an apple or a pear, infer You may eat an apple & You may eat a

pear) follow merely from expressing permission using the (independently-

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Free choice permission as resource-sensitive reasoning

(from You may not eat an apple or a pear infer You may not eat an apple and

You may not eat a pear) follows from standard Gricean reasoning, without

any need to postulate special pragmatic mechanisms.

The implications of this view are fairly dramatic. The claim is that natural

language expressions can differ in the resource management schemes they

impose. At the least, alethic modes impose classical resource management,

and deontic modes impose linear resource management (and quite likely,

other modes as well).

Linear Logic is one of the better known resource-sensitive logics. Other

logics may be worth considering instead. Similarly, the Anderson/Kanger

deontic reduction strategy was adopted in part for ease of exposition, and

work remains to integrate the account here within a more general framework

of modality in natural language. But apart from the advantages of Linear

Logic specifically or the deontic reduction, I would like to suggest a more

general conclusion: that we may be able to gain new and valuable insights into

long-standing puzzles in natural language semantics if we allow ourselves to

consider richer logical approaches than standard classical logic.

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Chris Barker

10 Washington Place

New York, NY 10003, USA

chris.barker@nyu.edu

http://homepages.nyu.edu/~cb125

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Semantics & Pragmatics Volume 3, Article 6: 1–54, 2010

doi: 10.3765/sp.3.6

Department of Linguistics, Department of Modern Languages,

University of California at Santa Cruz Utrecht University

Decision 2009-07-07 / Revised 2009-09-18 / Third Decision 2009-10-07 / Revised

2009-10-30 / Accepted 2009-11-21 / Final Version Received 2010-01-06 / Published

2010-03-30

and plural nominals in languages that manifest a binary morphological

number distinction within this category. We review the main challenges

such an account has to meet, and develop an analysis which treats the plural

morpheme as semantically relevant, and the singular form as not contributing

any number restriction on its own but acquiring one when in competition

with the plural form. The competition between singular and plural nominals

is grounded in bidirectional optimization over form-meaning pairs. The main

conceptual advantage our proposal has over recent alternative accounts

is that it respects Horn’s ‘division of pragmatic labor’, in that it treats

morphologically marked forms as semantically marked, and morphologically

unmarked forms as semantically unmarked. In our account, plural forms

are polysemous between an exclusive plural sense, which enforces sum

reference, and an inclusive sense, which allows both atoms and sums as

possible witnesses. The analysis predicts that a plural form is pragmatically

appropriate only in case sum values are among the intended referents.

To account for the choice between these two senses in context we invoke

the Strongest Meaning Hypothesis, an independently motivated pragmatic

principle. Finally, we show how the approach we develop explains some

puzzling contrasts in number marking between English three/more children

and Hungarian három/több gyerek (‘three/more child’), a problem that has

not been properly accounted for in the literature so far.

meaning hypothesis, Hungarian

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Non-

Commercial License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0).

Farkas and de Swart