Expressing agent indifference in German
Brian Buccola, Andreas Haida
December 2017

The German indefinite modifier irgend- can give rise to agent indifference (AI) readings. We propose a novel account of AI that builds on the observation that the adverbial einfach 'simply' emphasizes the AI reading of irgend-. We assume that einfach references a simplicity order that determines, in relative terms, what is simple for the agentive subject of the host sentence. For irgend-, we employ the by now standard assumption that it comes with a covert domain variable and activates subdomain alternatives. To derive AI, we argue that, if an agent has options for an action and preferences about which option to realize, then realizing one of many options (e.g. buying a single book from a large domain) is more complex than realizing one of fewer options (e.g. buying a single book from a subdomain). To create a link between the simplicity order referenced by einfach and the preference order employed in the derivation of AI, we show that the subdomain alternatives activated by irgend- can be associated with decision problems, and that these decision problems are equally simple iff the decision maker doesn't have preferences as to which of the expressed options to realize. We also compare German irgend- to Spanish cualquiera and to English any and discuss the consequences of our analysis for the theory of polarity sensitivity.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003763
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Amsterdam Colloquium 2017
keywords: modal indefinites, agent indifference, modality, polarity sensitivity, decision problems, semantics
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