This paper proposes that the meanings of some natural language expressions should be thought of as functions on their own continuations. Continuations are a well-established analytic tool in the theory of programming language semantics; in brief, a continuation is the entire default future of a computation. I show how a continuation-based grammar can unify several aspects of natural language quantification in a new way: merely stating the truth conditions for quantificational expressions in terms of continuations automatically accounts for scope displacement and scope ambiguity. To prove this claim, I exhibit a simple finite context-free grammar with a strictly compositional semantics in which quantificational NPs are interpreted in situ but take semantic scope over larger constituents. There is no Quantifier Raising (nor any use of a level of Logical Form distinct from overt syntax), no Cooper Storage (or similar mechanisms used in many recent HPSG, Categorial, or Type-logical treatments), and no need for type-shifting (as in Hendriks' Flexible Types account). Continuations also provide a natural account of generalized coordination that does not require either type-shifting or type polymorphism. Compositionality issues are discussed in some detail.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Linguistics and Language