The roots of genericity: indefinite singulars Vs definite plurals

Abstract : Generic readings of indefinites have two salient properties : they are rare, occurring mostly in the subject position, and they always come with a modal or law-like flavor. Another well-known property of singular indefinites is that they are, as a default, bound by existential closure. The paper assumes that generic readings of indefinite emerge if and only if the default reading (existential closure) is ruled out by pragmatic or syntactic constraints. In that case, the variable contributed by the indefinite is bound by " universal closure ", a mechanism playing also a crucial role in the derivation of plural generics readings.The main thesis is that the strong intuition associating generic indefinites to the expression of analytic truth comes from the pragmatic contexts which rule out the default reading (existential closure), i.e. contexts in which the common ground takes for granted that the predicate cannot help to single out a particular individual. In defense of this view, the paper establishes that if the existential reading is ruled out by a syntactic structure (e.g. French dislocations with ça) , the generic reading comes without any modal flavor, which is a problem for any theory taking this component as a built in feature of indefinite genericity per se.
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Contributor : Francis Corblin <>
Submitted on : Friday, December 9, 2011 - 12:38:01 PM
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Francis Corblin. The roots of genericity: indefinite singulars Vs definite plurals. Mari, A., Beyssade, C. and Del Prete, F. Genericity, Oxford University Press, pp.00, 2012. ⟨ijn_00650050⟩

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