Musings on Homogeneity and Non-Maximality

Manuel Križ, University of Vienna


Sentences with definite plurals display a property known as 'homogeneity': (1a) is true if John read (roughly) all of the books, (1b) is true if he read none of the books. If he read half of the books, neither sentence is true.

    1. John read the books.
    2. John didn't read the books.
They also display 'non-maximality': (1a) may be counted as true even though John skipped one book if that doesn't matter very much.

I will argue that homogeneity and non-maximality (i.e. tolerance for irrelevant exceptions) should be linked, as both of these properties are shared by a variety of constructions (plurals, conditionals, generics), and present a theory on which non-maximality is a pragmatic phenomenon that arises from the interaction of a trivalent semantics with pragmatic principles.

A number of welcome empirical predictions of this approach will be explored, including some that arise from a more detailed view on what exactly homogeneity consists in for various classes of predicates.