Technical Report LCL9902

Title: Atoms and Sets: a characterization of semantic number
Authors: Yoad Winter
Abstract: This paper introduces a novel approach to the semantics of plurals that is not based on the traditional distributive/collective distinction between predicates. Rather, the semantic number of nouns, verbs and adjectives is classified according to their behaviour under replacement of a plural determiner (e.g. all, plural no) by its singular counterpart (e.g. every, singular no). It is proposed that predicates that are insensitive to this replacement range over atomic entities, whereas number sensitive predicates range over sets of such atoms. This model-theoretic property, together with morpho-syntactic number of predicates and the quantificational/non-quantificational distinction between noun phrases, governs the availability of collective interpretations. The emerging system offers a general solution to some long-standing problems concerning the differences between every, all and simple plural definites.
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