Associate Professor Ezra Keshet gave a talk at the 23rd Sinn und Bedeutung (SuB) conference in Barcelona, Spain, on September 6. The title of his talk was “Discourse Plurals in an Update Semantics.”

SuB is one of the biggest venues for formal semantics and pragmatics representing the full breadth of the field. Conference topics cover natural language semantics, pragmatics, lexical semantics, the syntax-semantics interface, psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic studies related to meaning, and the philosophy of language.


Discourse Plurals in an Update Semantics

Quantification famously licenses later reference to the set of individuals quantified over, as in (1a), and other sets of individuals introduced in the quantification, as in (1b). It’s less well-known that reference to these so-called discourse plurals is available within the quantification itself, as shown in (2) and (3). I propose that several phenomena proffered as evidence of complex semantic machinery can instead be captured solely with discourse plurals, such as reciprocals, same/different, Hungarian dependent indefinites, and cumulative readings.

(1) Almost every student wrote an extra-credit paper.

(a) They wanted to improve their grades.

(b) They are sitting in a pile on my desk.

(2) Half the students (each) decided they should form a band together.

(3) Almost every student turned in a blank assignment before the due date and just assumed I wouldn’t look at them until after break.

Read the full abstract.

View the presentation slides.