The importance of the logical ‘generalized quantifiers’ (Mostowski ) for the semantics of natural language was brought out clearly in Barwise & Cooper . Basically, the idea is that a quantifier phrase QA (such as “all women”, “most children”, “no men”) refers to a set of sets of individuals, viz. those B for which (QA)B holds. Thus, e.g., given a fixed model with universe E,
where ⟦A⟧ is the set of individuals forming the extension of the predicate “A” in the model. This point of view permits an elegant and uniform semantic treatment of the subject-predicate form that pervades natural language.
Such denotations of quantifier phrases exhibit familiar mathematical structures. Thus, for instance, all A produces filters, and no A produces ideals. The denotation of most A is neither; but it is still monotone, in the sense of being closed under supersets. Mere closure under subsets occurs too; witness a quantifier phrase like few A. These mathematical structures are at present being used in organizing linguistic observations and formulating hypotheses about them. In addition to the already mentioned paper of Barwise & Cooper, an interesting example is Zwarts , containing applications to the phenomena of “negative polarity” and “conjunction reduction”. In the course of the latter investigation, several methodological issues of a wider logical interest arose, and these have inspired the present paper.
In order to present these issues, let us shift the above perspective, placing the emphasis on quantifier expressions per se (“all”, “most”, “no”, “some”, etcetera), viewed as denoting relations Q between sets of individuals.
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