On the semantics of free relatives with -ever

Victoria Ann Tredinnick, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is about three aspects of the semantics of -ever free relatives: their modal flavor (ignorance or indifference), their quantificational force (definite or universal), and their presuppositions. Free relatives with -ever have readings available to them that plain free relatives do not. Von Fintel (2000) argues that -ever introduces a presupposition of variation over the denotation of the free relative (a definite expression) across possible worlds. When the modal base is epistemic, variation results in the ignorance reading; when the modal base is counterfactual, variation results in the indifference reading. I adopt this analysis of the modal dimension of -ever free relatives and make a further distinction between agent indifference and external indifference. Regarding quantificational force, it has been variously argued that -ever free relatives are definite descriptions and that they are universals. Dayal (1997) argues that -ever free relatives are definites that acquire the properties of universals when they appear in generic contexts. I argue that a version of this last position is correct: Not all -ever free relatives can display universal behavior. While indifference free relatives can behave either like definites or like universals, ignorance free relatives cannot behave like universals and always behave like definites even in generic contexts. I argue that the ability of indifference free relatives to behave like universals is correlated with the projection behavior of their presupposition. The counterfactual presupposition that produces indifference can be accommodated locally, giving rise to agent indifference, or it can project globally, giving rise to external indifference. In contrast, the epistemic presupposition that produces ignorance can only project globally. Furthermore, ignorance free relatives that appear in generic contexts are not interpreted under the generic operator. These properties of ignorance free relatives are linked to the fact that ignorance free relatives are epistemic items.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Tredinnick, Victoria Ann, "On the semantics of free relatives with -ever" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3179822.