In addition to this semester's TABLE series, Carlos Cisneros will be giving a colloquium talk on Monday, November 1 at 3pm in 370 Dwinelle.
Dr. Cisneros received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2020 and is now a visiting assistant professor in the Berkeley Linguistics department with specializations in formal semantics, pragmatics, and fieldwork on native American languages. The talk is titled Capturing the indiscriminative reading of 'any', and the abstract can be found below.
The semantics of English any is a decades-old problem that remains unsettled in the literature. However, the literature has also refrained from full discussion of the various senses of any, focusing on NPI and free choice readings, but neglecting others. In this talk, I discuss the so-called indiscriminative reading of any (Horn 2000), which is available when any occurs with negation and is either explicitly modified by just, as in not just any, or is marked by intonation that indicates exhaustivity. This reading is often neglected in semantic analyses of any, although it is available for many polarity items similar to any across languages. I show that this reading is not easily captured by the most circulated semantic accounts of any, and that a new account is needed to explain the relationship between the NPI, free choice, and indiscriminative readings, in addition to their polarity distributions. By identifying analogous semantic phenomena among other English constructions, I posit a list of semantic ingredients needed for composing each of these readings: reference to low values on scales, strength-reversing environmental factors, and exclusive meaning. I then synthesize research on NPIs, degree semantics, and focus semantics to posit a basic meaning for any as a scalar indefinite, which can be elaborated into either an NPI, free choice item, or indiscriminative. At its core, any is an NPI in the sense of Krifka (1995), or an existential quantifier that activates domain alternatives. This already captures its NPI reading and distribution. However, it can take on an exhaustified interpretation via exclusive meaning operators (Coppock & Beaver 2013), thereby attaining its indiscriminative reading when the operator is interpreted under the scope of negation. The free choice reading is derived as well using a silent operator that induces a downward entailing environment in positive sentences, though it is itself averse to episodic environments. The proposal altogether fills some gaps in previous accounts of the meaning contribution and distribution of English (just) any.