Aug 15, 1996
Semantics and Linguistic Theory
The variety of interpretations exhibited by sentences with reciprocals is a longstanding challenge for semantic and pragmatic theories. This puzzle is related to some hard questions about the interpretation of plural predicates in general. In this paper we study the implications of relations between reciprocity and plurality for the account of reciprocals in Dalrymple et al. (1994). It will be proposed that Dalrymple et al.’s Strongest Meaning Hypothesis about the interpretation of reciprocals has a more general status in the semantics of plurality. The extended principle proposed determines the interpretation of a plural predicate according to lexical semantic properties of the corresponding singular predicate. The reformulation of Dalrymple et al.’s hypothesis will be shown to derive correct predictions about the interpretation of plural predicate conjunction and transitive plural predicates. The extension of the strongest meaning hypothesis also eliminates the ambiguity of reciprocals in Dalrymple et al.’s proposal and employs the standard Boolean analysis of conjunction. The relevant problems associated with the interpretation of plurals are not conceived as formal semantic phenomena proper. Rather, the strongest meaning hypothesis is formulated as a principle that non-standardly changes formal meaning using lexical semantic knowledge on predicates.