Generics in context : generalisation, context and communication
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This thesis consists of four chapters and an introduction. The first chapter is concerned with cases of purported genericity which are true despite only a minority of the kind in question satisfying the predicated property and whose predicated property is somehow striking. I argue that such cases are pathological, and hence shouldn’t be used as evidence for claims about the nature of genericity or the semantics of generics. In particular, these cases pose no difficulty for theorists who want to solve the problem of variability (the main obstacle in providing an adequate theory of generics), at least in part, by appeal to the linguistic property of quantifiers known as (contextual) domain restriction. The second chapter is devoted to defending a quantificational analysis of generics in which the logical form of generics contains an unpronounced quantifier expression Gen. The chapter defends the original argument of Carlson (1989), the multiple readings argument, which has recently come under scrutiny. In addition, it provides a novel argument in favour or Gen. This chapter also responds to various objections to the quantificational analysis, in particular to the linguistic evidence offered in favour of the kind-predication analysis. The third chapter defends the positive view that the unpronounced quantifier expression Gen is an indexical. The chapter argues that a given generic sentence expresses different generalisations in different contexts of utterance. A semantics for generics which treats Gen as an indexical A-quantifier is given. The indexical approach advocated has many virtues which are outlined in the chapter. Objections to the view are also addressed. The fourth chapter discusses two further classes of generics -existential generics and indexical singular generics. Diagnoses of the issues arising from these classes of data is given, and their relation to the positive view developed in the third chapter is outlined.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy