MoL-2009-10: Scalar Implicatures and Existential Import: Experimental Study on Quantifiers in Natural Language

MoL-2009-10: Spychalska, Maria (2009) Scalar Implicatures and Existential Import: Experimental Study on Quantifiers in Natural Language. [Report]

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The thesis discusses two properties of reasoning with quantifiers in natural language: scalar implicatures and existential import. The notion of scalar implicature refers in this case to inferring "not all" from both "some" and "most", or "not most" from "some"; existential import – to the question whether the universal categorial sentence "All A’s are B" implies that there are A’s. Traditionally it is connected with the subalternation relation in the Aristotle’s Square of Opposition, namely with inferring "Some A’s are B" from "All A’s are B". We conducted a series of reasoning experiments to check the above properties with respect to people’s active inference-production (which we call active logical competence) as well as their passive evaluation of given inferences (passive logical competence). We compared reasoning in empty and non-empty domains. Based on our results and especially on the lack of any connection between subject’s inferences and emptiness of domains, we explain all the observed phenomena in terms of scalar properties of quantifiers and refuse to analyze inferences with universal premises and particular conclusions in terms of existential import. We propose to treat quantifiers "some" and "most" as vague with flexible denotations. We provide a formalization of vagueness of quantifiers in terms of fuzzy semantics, and assume that quantifiers have default denotations which can be extended in the process of reasoning. The implicature "not all" is explained by the default meaning of "most" and "some". To deal with the issue of interpretation of existential sentences from fictional discourse we propose to use a dynamic modification of possible worlds semantics. We treat worlds as mental constructions describing certain world states. Existential sentences presuppose a certain world or class of worlds that set up a domain of discourse.

Item Type: Report
Report Nr: MoL-2009-10
Series Name: Master of Logic Thesis (MoL) Series
Year: 2009
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2016 14:38
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2016 14:38

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