Manifestations of Genericity offers a unified analysis of minimally contrasting generic sentences with indefinite singular (IS) and bare plural (BP) subjects-as in "A bird flies" versus "Birds fly"-within the framework of formal semantics. Beyond the classic distinction between quantificational and kind predication genericity, there is another important distinction in the generic domain, namely the distinction between two types of quantificational, modalized (I-) generalizations: "in virtue of" generalizations, expressed by both IS and BP sentences, and "descriptive" generalizations, expressed by BP sentences alone. Thus, "A bird flies" asserts that the generalization is nonaccidentally true in virtue of some property, associated with the CN subject, whereas "Birds fly" can also merely assert that the generalization is nonaccidentally true, with no implication of an "in virtue of" property.
Where previous theories have either assigned IS and BP sentences identical representations or two completely different (roughly quantificational and predicational) representations, this book treats both sentences as having the same basic quantificational-modalized structure-thus capturing the strong semantic similarities between them. Additionally, this study accounts for semantic differences by arguing that IS and BP sentences express different kinds of modality, and that the modalized Gen operator is restricted by a different accessibility relation in each case.
When combined with independent semantic and pragmatic mechanisms, the difference in accessibility relations makes correct and precise predications as to a wide range of both old and newly observed semantic, pragmatic and distributional differences between IS and BP sentences. In this book, Yael Greenberg discusses and clarifies a number of controversial issues and phenomena in the generic literature, including the existence of "episodic genericity," existential presuppositions, and contextual restrictions of generics.