Descriptions, Negation, and Focus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


This paper argues that some familiar cases of interaction between definite descriptions and negation are not best analyzed as scope interactions. Attention to the role of focus, and a number of related semantic and pragmatic factors, shows that the cases give no evidence of scope interaction. However, these factors can generate an illusion of scope. In particular, focus can generate illusions of scope, which may lead us to think sentences display scope ambiguities they do not. These conclusions offer limited support to non-quantificational treatments of definite descriptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStudies in Linguistics and Philosophy
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in Linguistics and Philosophy
ISSN (Print)0924-4662
ISSN (Electronic)2215-034X

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Philosophy


  • Definite Description
  • Focus
  • Negation
  • Presupposition
  • Quantifier
  • Quantifier Scope


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