Distributivity: Debates, advances, questions

Lelia Glass (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)

A predicate is understood distributively if inferred to be individually true of each member of a plural subject, nondistributively if not. “Alice and Bob smiled” conveys that they each smiled (distributive); “Alice and Bob met” conveys that they met jointly (nondistributive); “Alice and Bob opened the window” can describe a situation in which they each did so (distributive), or one in which they did so only jointly (nondistributive).

After laying out key concepts in this realm, this course introduces students to current questions, including:

— ‘Collective’ is usually the antonym of `distributive’; but what is it/how is it diagnosed?

— How should distributivity be represented semantically?

— Which predicates (verb phrases; adjectives) are understood in which ways, and why?

— When multiple readings/understandings are available, why do the collective / nondistributive ones seem to be preferred?

Students are welcomed into an exciting area engaging compositional semantics, lexical semantics, logic, and experimental data.

Course Materials