We are very happy to announce the next talk in the Semantic Colloquium, which will take place on Thursday, July 11, 4 – 6 pm in IG 4.301.

Yasutada Sudo (UCL) will present „The Plurality Inference as a Non-Propositional Quantity Implicature“.


Plural nouns typically give rise to ‘plurality inferences’, e.g. “Andrew wrote papers” implies that Andrew wrote multiple papers, not just one. Howevder, plurality inferences are not always present, e.g. “Andrew did not write papers” does not mean the same thing as “Andrew did not write multiple papers”. There are three types of approaches to the plurality inference: (i) the scalar implicature approach (Spector 2007, Zweig 2009, Ivlieva 2013, Mayr 2015), (ii) the ambiguity approach (Farkas & de Swart 2010, Grimm 2013, Martí 2018), and (iii) the antipresupposition approach (Sauerland 2003, Sauerland et al. 2005). In this talk, I will propose a new scalar implicature account. The idea of the scalar implicature account is that the plural is semantically number-neutral, and the plurality inference arises as a scalar implicature in competition with the singular. Previous studies pointed out that the scalar implicature computation is not so straightforward, given that pairs like “Andrew wrote papers” and “Andrew wrote a paper” will be truth-conditionally identical, if the plural is semantically number-neutral. Different versions of the scalar implicature account make use of different truth-conditional asymmetries, e.g. non-global levels of meaning, strengthened meaning for the singular alternative, etc. I propose instead that the plurality inference can be derived as a global-level quantity implicature based on a non-truth-conditional aspect of the meaning. Specifically, the singular and plural sentences differ in anaphoric possibilities: the plural sentence introduces a discourse referent that ranges over singular or plural entities, while the singular sentence introduces a discourse referent that only ranges over singular entities. Based on this asymmetry, a quantity implicature is derived that the discourse referent is meant to only range over plural entities. This analysis requires no additional mechanism beyond what is usually assumed (embedded scalar implicature or higher-order implicature), unlike the previous scalar implicature accounts. I will formalize this idea in Update Semantics, and demonstrate that it makes correct predictions about negative sentences and quantified sentences.


You are cordially invited!