Logic and Language

Lisa Bylinina (Leiden University): On 'Zero' (joint work with Rick Nouwen)

Speaker: Lisa Bylinina (Leiden University)
Title: On 'Zero' (joint work with Rick Nouwen)
Time: 13:30 - 15:00
Location: ILLC seminar room, F1.15

Zero is a relatively recent addition to many cultures -- the word 'zero' is first used in English only in the 16th century. However, 'zero' is not uncommon: according Merriam Webster dictionary, 'zero' is more frequent than 'thirteen'. In this talk, we will focus on a prenominal use of 'zero', as in 'I have zero new emails in my inbox'. We show that 'zero' can't be an emphatic variant of 'no' and that giving 'zero' a regular numeral semantics is possible and desirable. We formulate such an analysis and its consequences. In particular, we argue that if zero is indeed the bottom of the numeral scale, then the domain of entities will have to come with a bottom element as well and is a lattice rather than merely a semi-lattice. Finally, we explore the effect this will have on the meaning of degree quantifiers in general, and on bare plural indefinites.