Abstract for Magidor’s Talk

It is tempting to think that words like ‘book’ are ambiguous between a ‘physical book’ sense and an ‘informational book’ sense: on the physical sense, three copies of War and Peace count as three books, and on the informational sense, as only one book. However this ambiguity hypothesis seems to face problems with cases of copredication, namely sentences such as “Three books on the shelf are informative”. The problem arises from the claims that (i) ‘on the shelf’ only applies to physical books (ii) ‘informative’ only applies to informational books. (iii) we have only one occurrence of the word ‘book’ in the sentence.

Co-predication has been taken in the literature to be a deep problem that forces us into radical conclusions, most notably – the abandonment of referential semantics altogether. In this paper we argue that no such radical conclusions are warranted. We offer a novel account of copredication which denies both that ‘book’ is ambiguous, and that there are strong categorical restrictions preventing physical books from being informative, or informational books from being on shelves. We show how our account can address a wide variety of cases of co-predication and deal with some objections.