The scope of alternatives: Indefiniteness and islands
Simon Charlow
May 2018

I argue that alternative-denoting expressions interact with their semantic context by taking scope. With an empirical focus on indefinites in English, I show how this approach improves on standard alternative-semantic architectures that use point-wise composition to subvert islands, as well as on in situ approaches to indefinites more generally. Unlike grammars based on point-wise composition, scope-based alternative management is thoroughly categorematic, doesn’t under-generate readings when multiple sources of alternatives occur on an island, and is compatible with standard treatments of binding. Unlike all in situ (pseudo-scope) treatments of indefinites, using a true scope mechanism prevents over-generation when an operator binds into an indefinite.

My account relies only on function application, some mechanism for scope-taking, and two freely-applying type-shifters: the first is Karttunen’s (1977) proto-question operator, aka Partee’s (1986) IDENT, and the second can be factored out of extant approaches to the semantics of questions in the tradition of Karttunen (1977). These type-shifters form a decomposition of LIFT, the familiar function mapping values into scope-takers. Exceptional scope of alternative-generating expressions arises via (snowballing) scopal pied-piping: indefinites take scope over their island, which then itself takes scope.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003302
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Accepted at Linguistics and Philosophy
keywords: indefinites, islands, scope, alternatives, alternative semantics, monads, pied piping, questions, binding, semantics
previous versions: v1 [February 2017]
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