Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton December 21, 2007

Plural indefinite descriptions with unos and the interpretation of number

Helena Lopez Palma
From the journal


It has been noticed that indefinite descriptions with the Spanish determiner unos (plural-“one”) have a group denotation (Villalta 1994). That meaning has been explained within DRT (Laca and Tasmowski 1996, Gutiérrez Rexach 2001). Unos introduces a group referent variable in the discourse, which is associated to an atomic condition and does not trigger box-splitting (Gutiérrez Rexach 2001). However, the group interpretation is unstable, and there are cases in which unos-DPs may have an individual reading too. We suggest that instability is best understood as an epistemic fact. Unos is not a semantic determiner of the plural noun that follows it but it is composed with a covert group-denoting noun, which restricts the variable domain to sets of groups. The plural noun denotes the member's class and is related to the covert group term through a group-constitute function (Barker 1992). The group interpretation is unstable because it relies on our implicit knowledge of a covert group-denoting nominal head. The variability in the group interpretation also shows the role of perception in processing groups. We propose an explanation of the instability of unos in terms of Kratzer's version of a Skolem Choice Function. Unos denotes a Perspectival Choice Function that combines with a predicate denoting a set of groups and returns a unique group. We use the perspectival argument to represent the holder of the beliefs from which the implicit meaning is inferred. When the perspectival argument is underspecified, the unos-phrase denotes a fuzzy group, which we dub a cluster. When it is anchored to the speaker, the content of the cluster becomes transparent and the distributive reading of the group may arise. We extend the Spanish case to Galician and Catalan.

Published Online: 2007-12-21
Published in Print: 2007-12-11

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