Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Interpretation of Quantifiers

The Emmy-Noether research group "Interpretation of Quantifiers" targets the semantics, pragmatics, and syntax of Quantification and Binding. Our goal is to develop new mechanisms for these phenomena that can take the place of the current best theories.

Language allows humans to communicate complex abstract thoughts. Generative grammar seeks to develop formal models of the mental mechanisms underlying this human ability. We investigate two important aspects of these mechanisms: quantification and binding. Quantification is used to form general statements of the form Every boy is smiling. Binding establishes dependencies between different phrases of a statement as in Every girl is smiling at her mother, where the pronoun her depends on the subject. The two mechanisms often interact as they do in the previous example, and therefore are usually analyzed together. We are going to develop a new, simpler mechanism for binding building on earlier arguments of Sauerland that bound elements are definite descriptions. We also seek a simpler understanding of quantification in language that treats verbal and nominal quantification uniformly.