Flexibility Principles in Boolean Semantics

From Current Studies in Linguistics

Flexibility Principles in Boolean Semantics

The Interpretation of Coordination, Plurality, and Scope in Natural Language

By Yoad Winter

An investigation of the logical flexibility principles needed for a formal semantic account of coordination, plurality, and scope in natural language.





An investigation of the logical flexibility principles needed for a formal semantic account of coordination, plurality, and scope in natural language.

Since the early work of Montague, Boolean semantics and its subfield of generalized quantifier theory have become the model-theoretic foundation for the study of meaning in natural languages. This book uses this framework to develop a new semantic theory of central linguistic phenomena involving coordination, plurality, and scope. The proposed theory makes use of the standard Boolean interpretation of conjunction, a choice-function account of indefinites, and a novel semantics of plurals that is not based on the distributive/collective distinction. The key to unifying these mechanisms is a version of Montagovian semantics that is augmented by flexibility principles: semantic operations that have no counterpart in phonology.

This is the first book to cover these areas in a way that is both linguistically comprehensive and formally explicit. On one hand, it addresses questions of primarily linguistic concern: the semantic functions of words like and and or in different languages, the interpretation of indefinites and their scope, and the semantic typology of noun phrases and predicates. On the other hand, it addresses formal questions that are motivated by the treatment of these linguistic problems: the use of Boolean algebras in linguistics, the proper formalization of choice functions within generalized quantifier theory, and the extension of this theory to the domain of plurality. While primarily intended for readers with a background in theoretical linguistics, the book will also be of interest to researchers and advanced students in logic, computational linguistics, philosophy of language, and artificial intelligence.


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262232180 309 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 15 illus.


  • In this book, Yoad Winter places his influential work on coordination, choice functions, and plurality in the context of a general theory of semantic composition. This is essential reading for anybody interested in possible universals guiding semantic interpretation.

    Angelika Kratzer

    Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

  • This book represents one of the most thorough studies carried out within the program of 'flexible types' in semantics. Using some quite general 'type-shifting' operations, Dr. Winter is able not only to account for an impressive array of challenging phenomena but also—even more excitingly—to illuminate a number of intricate interactions among these phenomena. This study shows a rare and refreshing integration of formal rigor, mathematical precision, and rich empirical coverage.

    Pauline Jacobson

    Professor, Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University

  • This book is in my view the most important contribution to the semantics of coordination and plurality since the emergence of formal semantics in the late sixties. The book not only demonstrates, in often surprising ways, how far the classical methods of Montague, Partee and Rooth can be made to go to explain an exceptionally tangled complex of linguistic facts. It also advances our sensibility to distinctions within this empirical domain which previously had only been diffusely perceived. Winter places these distinctions (e.g. those having to do with the differences between plural and singular quantifiers) within the grasp of theoretical explanation and therewith into the sharp focus they deserve.

    Hans Kamp

    Department of Linguistics, University of Stuttgart, Germany