Abstract for Graff Fara’s Talk

I argue that descriptions are predicates.  The thesis applies to definite descriptions — singular, plural, and mass; indefinite descriptions; and bare plurals.  I appeal to Sharvy’s (1980) maximality analysis of definite descriptions in order to give a unified account of singular, plural and mass definite descriptions.  Meanwhile I show that the difference between treating the uniqueness implications of definite descriptions as presupposed (á la Frege) or as asserted (á la Russell) becomes a very simple choice point.  The key evidence for my view stems from the interaction of descriptions with adverbs of quantification.  In particular I argue that the predicate analysis of descriptions is required to account for the contrast between:

(1) Some Scandinavian rarely has brown eyes;
(2) A Scandinavian rarely has brown eyes.

The first can has only the weird meaning that there is some Scandinavian that rarely has brown eyes, which implicates that there is a Scandinavian whose eye color changes.  Meanwhile the second can have the more normal meaning that few Scandinavians have brown eyes.

I argue that the predicative analysis affords the best account of the contrast.  This involves a rejection of David Lewis’s assumption in “Adverbs of Quantification” (1975) that adverbs of quantification must always quantify over the same sorts of things —  always over times, or always over individuals, or always over events.  I say they sometimes quantify over individuals and sometimes over situations.

For anyone who might want to look into some background material (though I won’t presuppose it at all) it would be useful to look at David Lewis’s “Adverbs of Quantification” (attached below).

And some good things to read of mine would be (although again, I won’t presuppose anything):

Descriptions with Adverbs of Quantification
Descriptions as Predicates
Desires, Scope and Tense