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Another look at Italian generic sentences

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Abstract

In this paper we reconsider the interpretation of indefinite singular generics and definite plural generics in Italian. We show that these two types of statements cannot be associated with the traditional distinction between definitional vs. accidental generalizations. In particular we argue that indefinite generic statements are associated with a variety of interpretations that can be unified by reconstructing a hidden abilitative verbal operator triggered by the imperfective interpretation of the present tense. We distinguish between two types of abilities as well as between the overt abilitative modal and the covert one. We correctly derive the prediction that indefinite singular generics cannot be combined with accidental properties, which are perfective in nature. We analyze definite plurals as entering the logical form with a situation variable that is responsible for the fact that definite plural generics are compatible with accidental properties.

References

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