Seminar on Language and Communication
INSTITUTE FOR LOGIC, COGNITION, LANGUAGE AND INFORMATION (ILCLI)
Wednesday, April 18th, 2018, 15:00.
What Do Exceptives Mean?
Stanley Peters (Stanford)
In philosophy of language and linguistics, the prevailing view is that exceptive expressions function to save the truth of universal generalizations. Actual usage of English but and except reveals an interestingly different picture, beginning to be confirmed in psycholinguistic experiments. Exceptives occur also with non-universal generalizations, do not always save truth, and can exclude non-exceptional instances of a generalization. We present a simple, intuitively natural, formal theory of their meaning that shows how they function in general, including statements like "Imports have declined in most countries but China" and "Few countries but China can offer Egypt financial assistance and investment".