Natural language quantification is not polysemous

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Abstract

The paper argues that natural language quantification, as expressed by determiner phrases, is not polysemous. The foil for this claim is Hofweber (Ontology and the ambitions of metaphysics. Oxford University Press, 2016; Mind, 128:699–734, 2019), who contends that natural language quantification is polysemous between a domain reading and an inferential reading. The thesis is intended to support a more general division between externalist and internalist positions in semantics. The paper, to the contrary, argues that there is no linguistic evidence for polysemous quantification, and Hofweber’s proposal proves to be non-compositional. Further, an approach at least consistent with internalism is available independent of an inferential reading, for natural language quantification can be read as ontologically neutral, which removes the rationale for the polysemy hypothesis. The paper remains neutral on so-called heavyweight (thick) vs. lightweight (thin) construals of quantification, which are not claims about natural language semantics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number355
JournalSynthese
Volume200
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Compositionality
  • Inference
  • Ontological commitment
  • Quantification

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