The 27th

SAT., FEB. 22, 4:30-5:30 pm

A Compositional Characterization of the
Definiteness Effect in Existential-There Ss

Edward Keenan, UCLA

As a descriptive fact, the DPs which occur most naturally in There-Ss are (boolean compounds of) those built from intersective (and preferably cardinal) Determiners (notions I define in the talk):

There are at least/at most/exactly/more than/less than... ten students in the class
Are there no students in the class?
There are several/about ten/ nearly ten students in the class
Just how many students are there in the class?

Int not Card
There was no student but John in the building
Aren't there more male than female students in the class?
There are two male and three female kittens in this litter
?Just which students were there at the party?

*Isn't there every student in the class?
*There are most students in the class
*Aren't there all but two students in the class?
*?Are there the ten students in the class?
??Aren't there two out of three students in the class?

In this talk I show how to derive the intersectivity restriction from a compositional interpretation of There-Ss which, in a sense I define, treats the post-DP coda (in the class, etc.) as a domain restricting the interpretation of the DP. The compositionality problem I claim to solve is that of imposing the restriction on the N denotation in Det+N just given the Det+N denotation. Det+N might denote the same generalized quantifier (DP denotation) as some other Det'+N' even though N and N' may denote different sets. Time permitting I'll contrast my solution with Zucchi's non-compositional proposal (NALS 1995); more interestingly we'll address the question as to why the cardinal Dets and the DPs they build are more natural than the intersective non-cardinal ones.

The 27th Annual Penn Linguistics Consortium will be held February 21-23, 2003, at the University of Pennsylvania.
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