Common Nouns as Variables: Evidence From Conservativity and the Temperature Paradox

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Common nouns and noun phrases have usually been analyzed semantically as predicates. In quantified sentences, these predicates take variables as arguments. This paper develops and defends an analysis in which common nouns and noun phrases themselves are treated as variables, rather than as predicates taking variables as arguments. Several apparent challenges for this view will be addressed, including the modal non-rigidity of common nouns. Two major advantages to treating common nouns as variables will be presented: Such an analysis predicts that all nominal quantification is conservative, rather than requiring conservativity to be stipulated as a constraint on determiner denotations; and it makes possible some improvements to the analysis of the temperature paradox, allowing for quantificational examples without adding a spurious layer of modal variability.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21
EditorsRobert Truswell, Chris Cummins, Caroline Heycock, Brian Rabern, Hannah Rohde
PublisherGesellschaft fur Semantik
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2018
EventAnnual Meeting of the Gesellschaft fur Semantik: Sinn und Bedeutung - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: Sep 4 2016Sep 6 2016
Conference number: 21


ConferenceAnnual Meeting of the Gesellschaft fur Semantik
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • semantics
  • common nouns
  • temperature paradox
  • conservativity


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