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Auteur: Sara UCKELMAN

Co-Auteur(s): Rachel BODDY, University of Amsterdam, NL

Medieval insights for the semantics of exceptives

Abstract/Résumé: The basic schema for an exception sentence is 'A except C B', where A is the subject, C is the excepted term, and B the predicate or verb. In chapter 8 of _Quantifiers in Language and Logic_, Stanley Peters and Dag Westerstahl introduce a semantic theory of exception sentences which is designed to underpin our ordinary intuitions about the truth-conditions of such sentences. They reject contemporary theories by casting "some doubt on the so-called Inclusion Condition and the Negative Condition (in its various versions), arguing that these are often too strong'' (298), because these theories do not include what they call "exception conservativity'', a property of their semantics of `except' but not of other contemporary semantics for exceptives. However, while they are able to take care of problematic sentences such as the following: - Kate is an actress who played many roles except that of a real woman. - No students except for foreigners need to apply in advance. - Many dishwashers apart from low-end ones have a water-saving feature. - Few except visitors know that this city produces wine. However, Peters & Westerstahl admit that their theory is only preliminary---"Clearly, what we have done here only scratches the surface of the semantics of exception sentences'' (322)---and leave open a number of question at the end of the chapter. In this paper we present and formalize two medieval theories of exception sentences, due to William of Sherwood and Nicholas of Paris (both mid-13th C), which explicitly endorse exception conservativity and thus are allowed to make use of the Inclusion Principle in its strong form, allowing them to similarly deal with the above types of sentences. The use of exception conservativity is underpinned by the medieval distinction between signification---the meaning of a term in the abstract---and supposition---the meaning of a term in the context of a specific sentence. Using tools from supposition theory, and stressing the fact that an exception is always an exception \emph{from the subject}, they are able to deal with all of the above types of sentences as well as make distinctions that are not found in modern literature on exception sentences, such as the difference between excepting from a subject and excepting from a predicate, and the difference between the diminutional reading of ``except'' and the counterinstance reading. Thus, the medieval theories support Peters and Westerstahl's proposals but go beyond them by providing answers to some of the questions, such as the formulation of the proper Quantifier Constraint, left open.