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Domain widening Shank, Scott

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of domain widening, a process whereby a domain of quantification becomes wider over the span of discourse. The main thesis is that domain widening is not a lexical primitive related to any particular quantifier, but rather that it results from the non-contradictory use of focus on a quantifier with a wide contextual restriction. The asserted proposition does not contradict other alternatives in discourse, but merely cancels a scalar implicature arising from them. In cancelling a scalar implicature, domain widening always satisfies the presuppositions of even. Chapter Two motivates the basic claims of this approach by examining emphatic negative polarity items. Emphatic negative polarity items involve focus on an indefinite determiner. It is argued that focus is used to evoke alternative values for the implicit contextual variable in the determiner. The alternative contextual domains are ordered on a monotonic scale. Since domain widening produces a more informative proposition, it results in the cancellation of a scalar implicature. Supporting evidence for the presence of this scalar implicature is found in Cantonese, where it is shown that the implicature has been conventionalized and is not cancellable with certain polarity items. Chapter Three concentrates on non-generic free choice indefinites in subtrigging and modal contexts. These present a challenge since they appear in non-downward entailing environments, and hence widening is predicted to produce a weaker proposition. A solution is developed by analyzing these as widened specific indefinites. Adopting the view that specific indefinites may be modelled as having singleton domains, it is shown that widening destroys this specificity and furthermore cancels a scalar implicature on a non-monotonic scale of alternatives. Chapter Four investigates domain widening in the case of emphatic universal and distributive operators. The chapter opens by showing that domain widening occurs with universal quantifiers, and goes on to explain why domain widening does not occur with quantifiers not used to make universal generalizations. A new analysis of all is then presented as the domain-widened distributivity operator. This finding is used to explain why the distributivity operator in Cantonese has the same phonological form as a particle meaning even.

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