Champollion, Lucas, Dylan Bumford, and Robert Henderson. 2017. Homogeneity in donkey anaphora.

[Full paper on lingbuzz]

Abstract:  Donkey sentences have existential and universal readings, but they are not often perceived as ambiguous. We extend the pragmatic theory of homogeneity in plural definites by Križ (2016) to explain how context disambiguates donkey sentences. We propose that the denotations of such sentences produce truth value gaps — in certain scenarios the sentences are neither true nor false — and demonstrate that Križ’s pragmatic theory fills these gaps to generate the standard judgments of the literature. Building on Muskens’s (1996) Compositional Discourse Representation Theory, the semantic analysis defines a general schema for quantification that delivers the required truth value gaps. Given the independently motivated pragmatic account of homogeneity inferences, we argue that donkey ambiguities do not require plural information states, contra Brasoveanu 2008, 2010, or error states and supervaluationist determiners, contra Champollion 2016. Moreover we point out several empirical issues with the trivalent dynamic fragment in Champollion 2016, all of which are avoided by not relying on plural information states. Yet, as in Champollion 2016, the parallel between donkey pronouns and definite plurals is still located in the pragmatics rather than in the semantics, which sidesteps problems known to arise for some previous accounts according to which donkey pronouns and definite plurals both have plural referents (Krifka 1996, Yoon 1996).

Keywords:  donkey sentences, trivalence, weak/strong (existential/universal) ambiguity, extension gaps, pragmatics