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Title: Generics, laws and context
Author: Drewery, Alice
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis is concerned with providing a philosophically motivated theory of the semantics of generics, by relating work in linguistics to work in philosophy and drawing out the philosophical issues involved. The results should be of interest to both disciplines. In chapter one, I survey the literature on genericity and give a characterisation of generic sentences and their central properties. This is needed, since the many and varied analyses of their semantics create some confusion over what actually counts as a generic sentence. I defend a philosophically robust characterisation of generic sentences, a characterisation that I go on to employ in the rest of thesis. The nomic regularities expressed by generics have been most closely studied in the literature on laws of nature, Special Science laws, and ceteris paribus laws. I examine this literature in chapter two, and then, in my third chapter, relate this to the nomic features of generics. This leads me to make an important distinction between an exception and a counterexample to a generic, which I develop into an analysis of the semantics of generics in chapter four. In the process, I argue for a radical shift in thinking about laws of nature, and defend my claim that it is the nomic regularities expressed by generics, rather than traditional laws of nature, which play the most basic role in understanding the nature of regularities. Finally, in chapter five I apply my account to restricted laws and generalisations by considering the extent to which traditional accounts of the effects of context on quantification apply to generics. I demonstrate that some new features of the bare plural claimed to exist in recent work in linguistics can be subsumed rather more simply under my account and also show that the semantics of the familiar English universal quantifiers are rather more complicated than philosophers often think.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available