29th European Summer School in Logic, Language, and Information
University of Toulouse (France), 17-28 July, 2017

Speaking of Things and Stuff: The Semantics of Plurals and Mass Terms

Salvatore Florio, David Nicolas

Language and Logic (Introductory)

First week, from 14:00 to 15:30

Abstract

This course is an introduction to the semantics of plural and mass terms. These expressions have been at the center of a lively debate in linguistics and philosophy, generating a significant amount of work in both fields. The course provides an overview of the main questions and controversies associated with the semantics of plurals and mass terms. It aims to introduce and assess the main approaches in the literature. Special attention will be given to the methodological principles and frameworks in which those approaches are developed. Topics covered include: the semantic similarities between plurals and mass terms, singularizing approaches to plurals, plural reference and plural logic, contemporary analyses of mass terms, the ontology of plurals and mass terms, higher-order and plurals, and the interaction between plurals and modalities.

Description

Lecture 1: Introduction: data and methodology

Lecture 2: The semantics of plurals

Lecture 3: Plural logic

Lecture 4: The semantics of mass terms

Lecture 5: Advanced topics

The first lecture of the course introduces data and methodology. We present the key semantic data about plurals and mass terms, and emphasize the semantic similarities between these two classes of expressions. Moreover, we provide an accessible presentation of the methodological principles and frameworks that play an important role in the development of main semantic approaches to plurals and mass terms (e.g. theories of truth, model theory, mereology, and higher-order logic).

The next two lectures focus on the semantics of plurals. We introduce the most influential semantic analyses of plurals in linguistics and philosophy. We also discuss a new semantic paradigm emerged within philosophical logic, know as plural logic, and analyze its relation to the traditional semantic analyses of plurals proposed in the linguistic literature.

The fourth lecture covers the semantics of mass terms. We highlight the similarities between plurals and mass terms, emphasizing the approaches that promise to provide a unified account of the two classes of expressions.

The fifth and last lecture will be devoted to a selection of more advanced topics, such as higher-order plurals, sensitivity to order and repetition, the interaction between plurals and modalities, mixtures, and the ontology of plurals and mass terms. We will provide an overview of these topics, which will suggest to more advanced students themes for new and independent research.

As is clear from this brief outline, this course involves core issues in areas of interest for ESSLLI: logic (plural logic, higher-order logic, modal logic), language (semantics of natural language plurals and mass terms), and methodology (methodological issues in semantics and logic).

 

Expected level and prerequisites

Familiarity with the basic methods of mathematical logic, rudiments of formal semantics and model theory.  The course will be accessible to students who have taken an advanced undergraduate introduction to logic and formal semantics.

 

References

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Florio, S. & Linnebo, Ø. (2015), “On the innocence and determinacy of plural quantification”, Noûs 49 (1): 1-19.

Florio, S. & Nicolas, D. (2015), “Plural logic and sensitivity to order”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (3): 444-464.

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Nicolas, D. (2008), “Mass nouns and plural logic”, Linguistics and Philosophy 31(2): 211-244.

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