Genericity in natural language

Lecturer(s):Graham Katz (Institute for Cognitive Science) and Roberto Zamparelli (University of Bergamo)
Type:Introductory Course
Section:Logic and Language
Time: 14.00-15.30 (Slot 3)
Room:EM 1.82


The interpretation of generic sentences such as "Dogs bark" has
presented problems for formal theories of semantic interpretation at
least since Carlson (1977). Such sentences raise two kinds of issues:
those associated with the interpretation of the subject noun phrase -
how many dogs need bark - and those associated with the verb phrase -
how often (and when) do they have to bark. In this course we will give
a thorough review of the emprical and theoretical issues raised by
both aspects of generic sentence interpretation, concentrating on
recent developments, particularly in the treatment of generic
expressions in languages other than English.  We will focus on:
   Quantificational versus kind-denoting expressions
   The aspectual propertis of habituality marking
   Plurality and genericity
   The interpretation of generic discourses
Providing truth conditions for generic sentences has pushed semantic
theories of natural language to incorporate a number of non-standard
treatments, such as non-monotonic interpretation, kind-predication,
and even probablistic expectation. A detailed understanding of the
empirical issues surrounding generic sentences is essential to
evaluating any semantic representation formalism.

© ESSLLI 2005 Organising Committee 2004-12-01