On the Temporal Interpretation of Noun Phrases

R. Musan, 1995

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This thesis investigates the temporal interpretation of noun phrases.  The leading questions throughout are the following: (1) is the temporal interpretation of a noun phrase determined by the temporal interpretation of the rest of its clause?  (2) what kind of further interactions take place between the interpretation of noun phrases and the temporal interpretation of the main clause?  The framework in which these questions are answered exploits an ontology that assumes individuals, stages of individuals, and kinds as basic entities.  Determiner-quantification is argued to be quantification over stages of individuals rather than individuals in their whole temporal extendedness.

Chapter I provides a survey of the main topics of this thesis.  It is argued that an account of the temporal interpretation of noun phrases must investigate at least two issues that are to be distinguished: the temporal location of individuals and the temporal location of predication times.

In Chapter II, the temporal location of individuals is explained as an effect of lifetime presuppositions that are introduced by the lexical semantics of stage-level predicates and individual-level predicates, but not by a third type of predicate, existence-independent predicates.  Life-time effects associated with individual-level predicates are captured as a pragmatic phenomenon in terms of Grice"s Maxim of Informativity and related implicatures.  In temporally specific contexts, life-time effects are neutralized.  This is related to certain effects that topic-focus structure has on temporal interpretation.

Chapter III explains the temporal location of predication times associated with noun phrases.  In contrast to previous research, it is argued that the temporal location of predication times of nouns depends on the temporal interpretation of the rest of the clause.  The notions of "temporally dependent" and "temporally independent" noun phrases are introduced.  It is shown that the distribution of temporally dependent and temporally independent noun phrases involves the distinction between weak (or cardinal) and strong (or presuppositional) noun phrases as well as the distinction between existence-independent arguments and other arguments.  This distribution is explained as a consequence of (1) determiner-quantification being analyzed as quantification over stages of individuals, (2) independently motivated mechansims of implicit quantifier restriction, and (3) a particular account of weak and strong determiners.  This account analyzes both types of determiners as restrictive quantifiers, and attributes differences between them to whether the noun is mapped at LF into the restrictive clause or into the nuclear scope of the determiner.  The mechanisms introduced in this chapter are also applied to generic noun phrases, certain kind-denoting noun phrases, and to the distinction between object-related readings and event-related readings.

Chapter IV deals with the semantics of certain types of noun phrase internal temporal modifiers, in-modifiers, and of-modifiers.  It is argued that in-modifiers are obligatory restrictors of quantifiers.  Moreover, they impose constraints on the tense interpretation of their clause by activating the Upper Limit Constraint, which has also been used to explain certain aspects of the behavior of sequence-of-tense constructions and double-access constructions.

Chapter V offers a summary of results achieved in the preceding chapters and suggestions for future research.

Thesis supervisor:         Kai von Fintel

I           Introduction                                                                                                      11

            1          The central question                                                                              11

            2          Previous results and counterevidence                                                     13

                        2.1       Predication times                                                                      13

                        2.2       Times of existence                                                                    18

            3          Preview                                                                                                19

II          Temporal location of individuals                                                                        22

            1          Introduction: life-time effects with individual-level predicates      22

            2          A pragmatic explanation of life-time effects                                            24

                        2.1       Preliminaries                                                                             24

                        2.2       Informativity                                                                             29

                        2.3       A Gricean explanation: Life-time effects as implicature   34

                        2.4       Stage-level predicates and the Gricean explanation                    35

                        2.5       Predictions for existence-independent predicates                       37

                        2.6       Predicates with more than one argument                                    38

            3          Contextual relativization of life-time effects                                             40

                        3.1       The blocking of life-time effects in certain contexts                     40

                        3.2       On temporal interpretation                                                        42

                        Appendix to Section 3.2: definite and indefinite temporal

adverbials, quantifier restrictions, scrambling and related issues  47

3.3       Informativity in temporally specific contexts                               54

3.4       Informativity and life-time effects in out-of-the-blue

sentences: the final analysis                                                        56

                        3.5       Overt temporal adverbials and individual-level predicates           61

            4          A comparison with Kratzer"s (1988) proposal                           62

                        4.1       Kratzer"s treatment of life-time effects                           62

                        4.2       Wrong predictions with existence-independent predicates

                                    and ergative verbs                                                                     66

                        4.3       "Relating to the external argument"                                            68

                        4.4       Problems with the interaction of tense and adverbs of

                                    quantification                                                                            69

            5          Conclusion                                                                                           70

III        Temporal location of predication times                                                  73

            1          Introduction                                                                                          73

            2          The distribution of temporal dependence with noun phrases                   78

            3          A scope approach based on the cardinal/presuppositional

distinction                                                                                             84

                        3.1       The general idea                                                                       84

                        3.2       Cardinal subjects of existence-independent predicates   87

                        3.3       A problem: constructions with adverbs of quantification 90

            4          Stages                                                                                                  93

                        4.1       The basic idea                                                                          94

                        4.2       On the semantics of quantification                                              97

                                    4.2.1    The ontology                                                                97

                                    4.2.2    Quantification with resource domain variables    99

                                    4.2.3    On the semantics of cardinal and presuppositional

DPs                                                                              100 The interpretation of cardinal DPs                     100 The interpretation of resource domain

            variables                                                           104 the interpretation of resource domain

            variables with restrictive nouns              107

                        4.3       Temporally dependent and temporally independent noun

                                    phrase interpretation                                                                 116

                                    4.3.1    Temporal restrictions and temporal adverbials

modify resource domain variables                                  116

                                    4.3.2    The difference between restrictive

(presuppositional) noun phrases and unrestrictive

(cardinal) noun phrases                                     118

                        Appendix to Section 4.3: Modifications of resource domain

variables by temporal adverbials are mediated by the context:

scope interactions of temporal adverbials and DPs                                 121

            5          Unrestrictive noun phrases that get temporally independent

                        interpretations: an explanation under the stage approach             128

            6          Constructions with adverbs of quantification                                          130

            7          Generic noun phrases                                                                            131

            8          Remarks on temporally independent noun phrases                                 136

                        8.1       The salience of properties and the choice of nouns                     137

                        8.2       The salience of the time of utterance and the choice of

                                    predication times                                                                       141

                        8.3       Competing times and the salience of established discourse

                                    topics                                                                                       142

                        8.4       Different types of noun phrases                                     143

            9          Conclusion                                                                                           144

            10        More on stages                                                                         146

                        10.1     Ships passing through  locks and how to determine and

                                    count stages                                                                              146

                                    10.1.1  Object-related readings and event-related readings        146

                                    10.1.2  Maximality of stages                                                     148

                                    10.1.3  How to account for the ambiguity of object-related

                                                readings                                                                        150

                        10.2     The president of the U.S. and how to merge stages                    156

                                    10.2.1  Stages merging across the individuals?               156

                                    10.2.2  Individuals, stages, and kinds                                        157

                                    10.2.3  On the behavior of kind-nouns                          158

IV        On temporal NP-modifiers and upper limit effect                                               160

            1          Introduction                                                                                          160

                        1.1       Preliminaries on temporal NP-modifiers                         160

                        1.2       In-modifiers and of-modifiers                                                    163

            2          On the distribution of in-modifiers: restrictive and unrestrictive

                        DPs                                                                                                      165

            3          In-modifiers as obligatory restrictors                                                     170

                        3.1       The restricted distribution of in-modifiers                                   170

                        3.2       Obligatory restrictors in natural language                                    174

            4          Interactions of in-modifiers and tense                                                    176

                        4.1       What precisely are the effects?                                      176

                        4.2       Abusch"s (1994) Upper Limit Constraint in complex

                                    sentences                                                                                  180

                        4.3       Other combinations of in-modifiers and tenses               184

            5          In-modifiers and upper limits                                                                 187

                        5.1       Do in-modifiers pragmatically provide local evaluation

                                    times?                                                                                       188

                        5.2       The syntactic relation between ULC-related elements    196

            6          Conclusion                                                                                           200

            7          How to interpret in-modifiers                                                                202

V         Conclusion and speculations                                                                              207

            1          Results achieved in previous chapters                                        207

            2          Possible extensions I: time and space                                                     211

            3          Possible extensions II: times and worlds                                                213