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Think Generic cover

Think Generic!

The Meaning and Use of Generic Sentences

Ariel Cohen

Our knowledge about the world is often expressed by generic sentences, yet their meanings are far from clear. This book provides answers to central problems concerning generics: what do they mean? Which factors affect their interpretation? How can one reason with generics? Cohen proposes that the meanings of generics are probability judgments, and shows how this view accounts for many of their puzzling properties, including lawlikeness. Generics are evaluated with respect to alternatives. Cohen argues that alternatives are induced by the kind as well as by the predicated property, and thus provides a uniform account of the varied interpretations of generics. He studies the formal properties of alternatives and provides a compositional account of their derivation by focus and presupposition. Cohen uses his semantics of generics to provide a formal characterization of adequate default reasoning, and proves some desirable results of this formalism.

Ariel Cohen was a lecturer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel at the time of this publication.

Contents

  • Preface
  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Two views of Generics
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 Rules and Regulations
      • 2.2.1 Primitive Porperties of Kinds
      • 2.2.2 Default Rules
      • 2.2.3 Conversational Implicature
      • 2.2.4 Stereotypes
      • 2.2.5 Constraints on Situations
      • 2.2.6 General Critique of the Rules and Regulations Approach
    • 2.3 The Inductivist Approach
      • 2.3.1 Quantifications over Actual Individuals
      • 2.3.2 Quantifications over Relevant Individuals
      • 2.3.3 Quantifications over Normal Individuals
      • 2.3.4 Quantifications over Typical Individuals
      • 2.3.5 Quantifications over Possible Individuals
      • 2.3.6 General Critique of the Inductivist Approach
    • 2.4 Summary

  • 3 Alternative-Based Generics
    • 3.1 Introduction
    • 3.2 Defining the Generic Quantifier
      • 3.2.1 Motivation
      • 3.2.2 Some Observations
      • 3.2.3 Counting vs. Possibiliies
      • 3.2.4 The Generic Quantifier
      • 3.2.5 Some Examples
    • 3.3 Refernce to Kinds
      • 3.3.1 Generic Noun Phrases as Kind-Denoting
      • 3.3.2 The Nature Kinds
      • 3.3.3 Kinds and Personal Generics
      • 3.3.4 Collective Readings
      • 3.3.5 Coordinates
      • 3.3.6 Well-Established Kinds
    • 3.4 Absolute vs. Relative Readings
      • 3.4.1 The Problem
      • 3.4.2 Conservativity
      • 3.4.3 Relative Readings
      • 3.4.4 Some Examples
      • 3.4.5 Are Relative Readings Simple Generics?
    • 3.5 Summary

  • 4 Generics as Probability Judgements
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 Theories of Probability Judgements
    • 4.3 Characterizations of Probability Judgements
      • 4.3.1 Necessity vs. Contingency
      • 4.3.2 Propositions vs. Properties
      • 4.3.3 Substitutivity
      • 4.3.4 Extensibility
    • 4.4 Generics as Statements of Relative Frequency
      • 4.4.1 Problems with the Relative Frequency Interpretation
      • 4.4.2 The Unboundedness Constraint
      • 4.4.3 The Homogeneity Constraint
      • 4.4.4 Salient Partitions
      • 4.4.5 Majority asa Sufficient Condition
    • 4.5 Quantificational Predicates
    • 4.6 Summary

  • 5 Determining the Alternatives
    • 5.1 Introduction
    • 5.2 Absolute Determinables
    • 5.3 Presupposititon
    • 5.4 Focus
      • 5.4.1 Focus and Alternatives
      • 5.4.2 Generics and Focus
      • 5.4.3 Association
    • 5.5 The Calculus of Alternatives
      • 5.5.1 Compositionality
      • 5.5.2 Logical Connections
    • 5.6 Empty Reference Classes
    • 5.7 Refutation Statements
    • 5.8 Summary

  • 6 Generics and Frequency Adverbs
    • 6.1 Introduction
    • 6.2 Atemporal Frequency Adverbs
      • 6.2.1 The Generic Quantifier as a Frequency Adverb
      • 6.2.2 Absolute and Relative Readings
      • 6.2.3 Homogeneity
    • 6.3 Happenings and Cases
      • 6.3.1 The Problem
      • 6.3.2 Quantification over Happenings
      • 6.3.3 Quantification over Cases
      • 6.3.4 Probabilities of Arbitrary Open Formulas
    • 6.4 The Restrictor
      • 6.4.1 The Problem
      • 6.4.2 Focus and Logical Form
      • 6.4.3 Subjects as Restrictors
      • 6.4.4 Topics as Restrictors
      • 6.4.5 Focused Restrictors
      • 6.4.6 Multiple Topics
      • 6.4.7 Objects of Stative Verbs
      • 6.4.8 Singular Indefinites
    • 6.5 Temporal Readings
    • 6.6 Habituals
      • 6.6.1 Habituals and Alternatives
      • 6.6.2 Unmodified Habituals
    • 6.7 Sentences with Multiple Frequency Adverbs
    • 6.8 When Clauses
    • 6.9 Summary

  • 7 Reasoning with Generics
    • 7.1 Introduction
    • 7.2 Generics and Default Rules
    • 7.3 Secificity and Relevence
    • 7.4 Homogeneity and Unbounded
    • 7.5 Acceptance Rules
    • 7.6 Properties of Adequate Default Rules
    • 7.7 Conjunctions
    • 7.8 The Conjunction Fallacy
    • 7.9 Summary

  • 8 Conclusion
  • References

7/1/99

ISBN (Paperback): 1575862085 (9781575862088)
ISBN (Cloth): 1575862077 (9781575862071)
ISBN (Electronic): 1575869829 (9781575869827)

Subject: Linguistics; Grammar--Sentences; Genericalness

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