"No news is good news": The Quantifier/State-of-Affairs ambiguity in English

Neal Whitman


Under normal generalized-quantifier semantics, No news is good news means there is no such thing as good news. However, the intended meaning interprets the quantifier as a state of affairs (SOA): “The situation in which there is no news is good news.” Quantifier/SOA ambiguity is possible with existential NPs. It is easiest to spot with negations; hardest with bare plural and mass NPs. The desired semantics is obtained via two semantic type-shifting operations. One is the SOA function \phi.SOA(te)(phi), which turns a formula into the SOA in which that formula is true. The other is the Quantifier-to-SOA shifting mechanism \P(ett).SOA(P(exist')).

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/exabs.v0i0.550