Operators vs. Quantifiers: the View from Linguistics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In several publications, François Recanati argues that time, world, location, and similar constituents are not arguments of the verb, although they do affect truth conditions. However, he points out that this fact does not decide the debate regarding whether these notions are represented as sentential operators variables bound by quantifiers, as both approaches can be made compatible with such non-arguments. He makes these points using philosophical arguments; in this paper I use linguistic evidence from a variety of languages. Specifically, I demonstrate that time, world, location, and person behave syntactically and semantically the same across languages. Hence, either all are arguments, or neither are; and the evidence points to the latter position. The cross-linguistic data give rise to a generalization, which connects the availability of quantifying over times, worlds, locations, or persons with the availability of indexical expressions of the corresponding type. For example, a language that does not have temporal indexicals cannot have tense. I demonstrate that this generalization follows naturally from the quantifier approach, but would remain a mystery under the operator view. Therefore, the cross-linguistic evidence argues in the favor of the quantificational approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-592
Number of pages29
JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Linguistic evidence
  • indexicals
  • location
  • modality
  • person
  • tense

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


Dive into the research topics of 'Operators vs. Quantifiers: the View from Linguistics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this