Constraints on quantificational domains: Generic plural des indefinites in French

  • Carmen Dobrovie-Sorin
  • Alda Mari


The current literature on pluralities is mainly concerned with definite plurals in existential contexts and the implicit assumption is that indefinite plurals are to be analyzed in the same way, as sums of individuals (Link 1983, Landman 2000) in the general case or as groups in more specific cases (see in particular collective readings). We will argue that although plural indefinites can be modeled as sums of individuals in those contexts in which they are either bound by existential closure or indirectly bound by an operator that quantifies over events, they cannot do so when they are directly bound by an adverbial quantifier; in the latter context, plural indefinites can only be represented as groups: binary quantifiers cannot denote a relation between two sets of sums, but only a relation between two sets of groups. This generalization will be shown to follow from an individuability constraint on quantification. Quantification requires individuability and, as argued by Landman (1989a,b) only groups, but not sums, are individuable entities. But one may still wonder whether the generic quantifier can access the members of sums, which are known to be accessible to distributive predication. To put it differently, one should explain why it is not possible to randomly fix a sum and to allow the generic adverb to quantify over its members. We will claim that it is impossible for generic sentences to restrict the generalization to a particular domain. Quantification over (groups of) individuals will be distinguished from quantification over events combined with the indirect binding of a variable supplied by an indefinite (plural). Such indirectly bound plural indefinites can be modeled as sums of individuals. The generic readings of French plural indefinites headed by des ‘some’ will provide us with the core testing ground. The analysis will shed new light on the generic readings of English bare plurals.
How to Cite
Dobrovie-Sorin, C., & Mari, A. (2019). Constraints on quantificational domains: Generic plural des indefinites in French. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 11, 165-179.