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A Mentalistic Semantics Explains “Each” and “Every” Quantifier Use

  • Author(s): Knowlton, Tyler;
  • Trueswell, John;
  • Papafragou, Anna
  • et al.
Abstract

“Each” and “every” can be used to express the same truth-conditions but differ in their contexts of use. We adopt a particular psycho-semantic proposal about the meanings of these universal quantifiers: “each” has a meaning that interfaces with the psychological system for representing object-files whereas “every” has a meaning that interfaces with the psychological system for representing ensembles. In five experiments (n=798 total) we demonstrate that this mentalistic account correctly predicts newly-observed constraints on how “each” and “every” are pragmatically used. More generally, these results demonstrate that canonical patterns of language use are affected in predictable ways by fine-grained differences in semantic representations and the cognitive systems to which those representations connect. By treating the output of semantics as mental representations that are more finely articulated than truth-conditions—and by taking seriously the relationship between linguistic meanings and non-linguistic cognitive systems—we can explain otherwise puzzling patterns of language use.

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