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possible readings of "John seeks a bike or a fish"
- Subject: possible readings of "John seeks a bike or a fish"
- From: phri!sci.ccny.cuny.edu!rpi!zaphod.mps.ohio-state.edu!think!snorkelwacker!bloom-beacon!eru!luth!sunic!mcsun!hp4nl!ruuinf!praxis!jagversm
- Date: 22 May 90 12:29:36 GMT
- >from: firstname.lastname@example.org (Koen Versmissen)
- Article: 4102 of sci.lang:
- Keywords: natural language, quantification, intensionality
- Newsgroups: sci.lang
- Sender: email@example.com
What are the possible readings of the sentence
>John seeks a bike or a fish< in natural language?
Technically there are, I think, eight readings:
"to seek" being an intensional verb, both "bike" and "fish"
can be either intensional or extensional. Furthermore, the
disjunction can apply to either the speaker or John.
Let me paraphrase:
1. There are a bike and a fish, and John is trying to find
one of these (he doesn't care which one).
2. There are a bike and a fish, and John is trying to find
one of these (but I don't know which of the two he's
actually looking for).
3. There is a bike, and John is trying to find either this
bike or a (possibly non-existent) fish (he doesn't care...)
4. There is a bike, and John is trying to find either this
bike or some fish (but I don't know...).
5. & 6. Similar to 3. & 4., but with the roles of "bike" and
7. John is looking for a (possibly non-existent) bike or a
(possibly non-existent) fish, and will be satisfied when
he has found either one.
8. John is looking for a bike or a fish, both possibly non-
existent, but I don't know which one he's looking for.
I hope this is clear.
This came up during a talk on quantification in natural
language. A theory thereof should account exactly for those
readings acceptable in natural language. But which ones are
in fact acceptable?