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Group nouns and pseudo-singularity
, S. Shapiro
Published in John Wiley and Sons Ltd
Volume: 10
Issue: 1
Pages: 66 - 77
Definite group nouns, such as “the deck of cards,” raise two important kinds of problems. Philosophically, they raise the ancient Problem of the Many: How can one deck be many cards? Linguistically, they threaten paradox: If such expressions singularly refer to groups as set-like entities, then analyses employing such entities threaten to be incoherent, due to Russell's paradox. On the other hand, no paradox is threatened if, per the suggestion of Alex Oliver and Timothy Smiley, “the deck of cards” is a pseudo-singular term, that is, a term which is syntactically singular but semantically plural, exploiting the primitive relation of plural reference. Against this, we argue that pseudo-singularity is linguistically and logically untenable. As such, it will not plausibly solve either kind of problem raised by definite group nouns. © 2021 The Thought Trust and Wiley Periodicals LLC.
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