LINGUIST List 31.2483

Thu Aug 06 2020

Qs: Manipulate Information Structure to Degrade Bare NP

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 05-Aug-2020
From: ‪Aviv Schoenfeld‬‏ <>
Subject: Manipulate Information Structure to Degrade Bare NP
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My question pertains to information structure and bare plurals. The contrast in (1) is based on judgments reported by Smith (1975:ex.23, fn.12) and Krifka et al. (1995:ex.112c-e), and (2) is my addition. See also Krifka (2003:§4.4).

(1) a. Transistors were invented by Shockley.
b. ?Shockley invented transistors.
(2) a. Transistors are my favorite invention.
b. ?My favorite invention is transistors.

Information structure can be manipulated to improve the (b) sentences in (1-2), as in (3-4).

(3) Q: Who invented what?
A: Shockley invented transistors, and Newton invented light-bulbs.
(4) Q: What are some of your favorite things?
A: My favorite invention is transistors, and my favorite species is tigers.

My question is: Does anyone know how to manipulate the information structure to degrade the (b) sentences in (1-2), i.e. make them even worse than they are?

I know some of the literature on information structure and bare plurals (references in Yoon 2005, Mack 2010), but I have not found an answer to my query there.

Aviv Schoenfeld

Krifka, Manfred. 2003. Bare NPs: Kind-referring, indefinites, both, or neither? Semantics and linguistic theory 13. 180-203.
Krifka, Manfred, Francis J. Pelletier, Gregory N. Carlson, Alice ter Meulen, Godehard Link & Gennaro Chierchia. 1995. Genericity: An introduction. In Gregory N. Carlson & Francis J. Pelletier (eds.), The generic book, 1 124. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mack, Jennifer Elaine. 2010. Information structure and the licensing of English subjects. Yale University dissertation.
Smith, Neil V. 1975. On generics. Transactions of the philological society. 27-48.
Yoon, YoungEun. 2005. Generic and existential readings of bare plurals, and contextual factors. Language research 41(2). 275-303.

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Page Updated: 06-Aug-2020