Please join us this Friday as Carlos Cisneros from the Linguistics Department presents more work on indiscrimnacy.
Date and time: Friday, February 16, 11:00 a.m. – 12:50 p.m.
Location: Stuart 209 (Philosophy seminar room)
Title: Dissecting indiscriminacy (and free chioce)
Indiscriminatives (depreciatives in Haspelmath 1997) are a crosslinguistic class of indefinite equivalent in meaning to English ‘just any’. Haspelmath observed their strong relationship to free choice items crosslinguistically, calling them ‘semantic enrichments [of free choice meaning] by implicature’. They are often derived from free choice items by means of special intonation and/or minor morpho-syntactic modification. They are characteristically defined by their interaction with negation, which results in the denial that the indiscriminative’s restrictor serves as a sufficient condition for satisfaction of some predicate by an individual.
(1) It’s not that just any horror film should get nominated for an award.
In (1), the speaker denies that the predicate should get nominated for an award is satisfied by merely having the condition of being a horror film. In this denial, the speaker also asserts that an individual must have some other quality besides being a horror film, thereby representing some proper subset of horror films yet to be suggested. To my knowledge, there is no attempt in the literature to develop a semantic/pragmatic account of indiscriminative meaning.
The difficulty of approaching an semantic treatment of indiscriminative meaning is tied to the problem of free choice item semantics. Outside of negation, both classes of items display the properties of anti-episodicity (aversion to episodic environments) and quantificational variability (a modal form of universal quantification which favors distributive over collective readings) (Giannakidou 2001). There is a large literature on the semantics of free choice items, especially any, with much debate about their most proper, general treatment (Dayal 1998; Menendez-Benito 2010; Chierchia 2013; among many others). But most of these approaches have neglected early insights that relate the meaning of free choice items to a greater systematic phenomenon in language. Fauconnier (1975) noted the meaning similarity between any and the quantifying superlatives of English. Konig (1991) later noted that quantifying superlatives are anti-episodic, in the same vein as free choice items. Although it has not yet been discussed, quantifying superlatives also display quantificational variability and a strong resemblance to indiscrimatives while under negation. Therefore, the meaning of free choice items, their link to indiscriminatives, and a larger set of phenomena including quantifying superlatives should result from a common set of semantic principles.