We are happy to announce that on Wednesday, January 28th, Patricia Cabredo Hofherr (CNRS UMR 7023 / Paris 8) will give a LUSH talk in Leiden. We hope to see you all there!
Speaker: Patricia Cabredo Hofherr (CNRS UMR 7023 / Paris 8)
Date: Wednesday, January 28th 2015
Time: 15.30 – 17.00
Location: Leiden, van Wijkplaats 2, room 003
Title: Semantic variation in R-impersonal pronouns cross-linguistically
Abstract: R-impersonal pronouns (human impersonal pronouns) differ in their behaviour wrt to
collective and distributive predication. As Andersson (1972) notes, Swedish man and English
they and one show the following contrasts:
(1) a. Man odlar mycket råg i England./ Man har många gräsmattor i England.
b. They grow a lot of rye in England./ They have a lot of lawns in England.
c. # One grows a lot of rye in England./ # One has a lot of lawns in England.
The examples in (1c) with one as a subject are pragmatically deviant as they imply that the
property of growing a lot of rye / having a lot of lawns applies to individuals of the relevant
type, while the examples with they allow a cumulative / collective reading: growing a lot
of lawns applies to the plurality associated with in England (corresponding approximately
to people living in England). Distributivity in these cases is related to a second difference,
related to the lawlike character of the predicate:
(2) Lawlike predicate:
In France, they go to school early / you go to school early / one goes to school early.
(3) Descriptive predicate:
In France, they eat snails/ #you eat snails. # one eats snails.
This combined contrast of law-like predicate and distributive interpretation is found in
other instances of R-impersonal pronouns. The constrast is further parallel to the different
types of generic predicates (cf. Lawler (1972, 1973), Dahl (1975, 100) accidental generalisations
vs nomic or law-like statements, Carlson (1995) inductionist vs. rules-and-regulation
view of generics, Greenberg (2007) “in virtue of genericity”, Krifka (2012) descriptive vs. definitional
generics). As Lawler points out this difference is correlated with number on the
(4) Definitional generics: Madrigals are polyphonic. A madrigal is polyphonic.
(5) Descriptive generics: Madrigals are popular. *A madrigal is popular.
(examples due do Lawler (1972))
I will explore the following hypothesis for R-impersonal subjects:
(6) Hypothesis: Singular R-impersonal subjects are limited to definitional generics, number
neutral R-impersonal subjects allow definitional and descriptive generics.
Alleesaib & Cabredo Hofherr 2013 R(eferential)-impersonals in Mauritian Creole. Andersson,
L.-G., 1972 MAN – ett pronomen. Gothenburg papers in theoretical linguistics 15.
Göteborg. Dahl 1975 On generics. In Keenan, E. (ed.), Formal Semantics of Natural Language,
pp. 99–111. CUP. Greenberg 2007 Exceptions to generics: Where vagueness, context
dependence and modality interact. Journal of Semantics, 24:131–167. Krifka 2012 Definitional
generics. In Mari,Beyssade, & Del Prete (eds.), Genericity, pp. 372–389. OUP. Lawler
1972 Generic to a fault. Proceedings of CLS, 8:247–258. Lawler 1973 Tracking the generic
toad. Proceedings of CLS, 9.)