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A Semantic Theory of Adverbs

Author(s): Richmond H. Thomason and Robert C. Stalnaker


Source: Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring, 1973), pp. 195-220
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4177764
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LinguisticInquiryVolumeIV Number2 (Spring, 1973),

RichmondH. Thomason

Semantic

Theory

of

195-220.

Adverbs*

RobertC. Stalnaker

i.

Introduction

In recent years adverbial constructions have attracted the attention of many logicians,
philosophers of language, and linguists. Most of this work is relevant to the content of
the present article, but that of Richard Montague and his associates deserves special
discussion since our formal semantic theory can be regarded as a special case of
Montague's.'
Montague's semantics for adverbs was a component of a general program for
developing a formal semiotic theory of natural languages such as English. The task
of the syntactic part of the program is to develop a recursive definition of the sets of
phrases of various syntactic categories of expressions (e.g. noun phrases, intransitive
verb phrases, adverb phrases, sentences) of a fragment of English. The semantic part
of the program furnishes an interpretation of this fragment in terms of intensional
model theory, and the pragmatic part deals with the interpretation of contextdependent or "indexical" expressions such as I, here,and now.In Montague's linguistic
writings2 the general semiotic program is the center of attention, and detail is not
lavished on specifics such as the treatment of adverbs. One function of this paper is
to remedy this defect.
Also, though we accept the main features of Montague's semiotic program, we
have not adopted its methodology here, but instead have followed a more conservative
approach emerging from recent work in intensional logic. According to this approach,
artificial logi-al languages are used as the objects of formal semantic theory, and are
* Each of the authors would like to thank the other for pointing out numerous errors in earlier drafts of
this article and making many helpful suggestions; but he assures the reader that his coauthor is not responsible
for any errors that remain.
We are indebted to the Council for Philosophical Studies for their sponsorship of a summer institute in
the philosophy of language, where many of the ideas of this article took shape, and to George Lakoff for an
extensive and provocative correspondence. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation
under Grants GS-25I 7 and GS-2574.
We owe special thanks to two referees of this paper who took pains to provide us with extensive comments
and criticisms. This version of the paper owes much to their care and helpfulness.
1 Of Montague's papers, Montague (I 970a) devotes most attention to adverbs. See especially pp. 212-214
of this work.
2 All of these writings are listed below in our bibliography. Some of these are difficult to obtain, but this
should be corrected by the end of I973, when the Yale University Press plans to publish an anthology of Montague's papers.

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linked to natural languages by an informal procedure of formalization.3 The application of semantic theories to English is therefore indirect, rather than direct as in
Montague's approach, since it is mediated by formalization.
This makes our account of adverbs in natural language less rigorous than Montague's, but at the same time it enables us to give a freer and more open-ended discussion of semantic problems arising in connection with adverbs. By being less direct
in relation to English syntax we can consider problematic and puzzling phenomena,
as well as those that are more perspicuous.

2.

Logical Form and Adverbial

Constructions

Adverbs are notoriously resistant to perspicuous formalization in first-order logic,


which apparently requires them to be petrified components of the predicate.4 For

instance, if
(i)

(I)

John walks

is formalized by Pa, where P stands for walks and a for john, then we must, it seems,
formalize (2)
(2)

John walks slowly

by Qa, choosing a new predicate parameter, say Q, to stand for walks slowly. Perhaps
this is not as bad as rendering (i) by Pa and John doesn'twalk by Ra, but still one feels
that Qa is unfaithful as a formalization of (2). The complex structure of the verb
phrase walks slowly, with its explicit relation to the verb phrase walks, has been erased.
Logicians, who are interested in accounting for valid inferences, may make the stronger
objection that this formalization will not make (i) a logical consequence of (2). We
will argue below, in Section 8, that this objection is questionable. But whether or not
it stands up, the need for a more faithful logical translation is clear.
An option explored by Donald Davidson is to seek a more sophisticated formalization in first-order logic itself. But Davidson's theory is explicitly narrow in its sCope,
adverbs such as slowly, greedily, carefully, and intentionallybeing excluded; and we
suspect it may prove to be even more narrow than he anticipated. There remains, then,
a need for a general semantic theory of adverbs. It is in response to this need that we
3 Formalization is the procedure of translating statements of a natural language into formulas of an
artificial language for the purpose of evaluating arguments using the statements, exposing ambiguities in them,
or revealing their "true logical form". The procedure is informal, since the rules for carrying it out are never
made fully explicit. One must use his intuitive understanding of the content and structure of the given statements.
An adequate formalization must yield a formula that has the same truth conditions as the given statement, but
beyond this, the standards of adequacy are unclear. All one can say is that the "relevant structure" of the given
statement should be reflected in the formalized equivalent. Although this standard is unsatisfactory as an abstract
account of what formalization is, in concrete cases the procedures for formalizing and evaluating formalizations
are often unproblematic.
4 For discussions of the problem, see Reichenbach
(1947), Davidson (I968), Clark (1970), Quine (1970),
and Parsons (1970).

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

propose to construct our extension of first-order logic. Research in other areas, e.g.
in the logic of tenses, has shown that it can be rewarding to build such extensions,
adding new notation to the underlying formal language as it is needed to formalize a
particular kind of discourse. The methodological rule governing such projects is that
they must be carried out with the same degree of rigor associated with familiar logical
theories. In particular, all new notation must be provided with an acceptable semantic
interpretation, or model theory.5
We now return to (2). The obvious way to handle this sentence is simply to add
a new piece of logical notation to stand for slowly. Then the formalization of (2) will
be obtained from that of (i) by adding a new symbol, say e, to Pa. But how to add it ?
Since slowly modifies walks, not John or Joohnwalks, something like (3) seems good.

(3) ePa
The task of formalizing (2) is then just a matter of transposing word order and
replacing English with logical vocabulary. John walks slowly becomes Slowly walksJohn,
which then becomes EPa.
This is nice, but not yet quite right. The trouble is that it gives ePa the same
syntactic structure as Pa, standing for the English sentence John does not walk. But
our grammatical intuitions suggest that these should be distinguished from one
another. The formula -Pa represents the negation of a sentence formed by attaching
a predicate to a subject. But ePa is the result of modifying a predicate with an adverb,
and then applying the modified predicate to a subject. So
Pa and ePa have the
following two structures.

Pa

{Pa
Pa

P /

ep

%/

In a well-designed logical language such distinctions are built into formulas themselves. What we need, then, is something like (6P)a. This notation is more perspicuous
as to syntactic structure, but is too restrictive because it provides no way of applying
adverbs to complex predicates. There is no way, for instance, to formalize examples
such as the following two.
(4)
(5)

With his pencil, John doodled and took notes.


John walked or was carried to the hospital.

At first glance this may not seem a serious limitation, since (4) could be simply

assigned the logical form (6P)a A (Q )a and (5) the form (eP)a v ( Q)a. Here the
5 As a branch of mathematical logic, model theory originates in the work of Tarski. Kalish (i 967) contains
an introduction to model theory suitable for nonspecialists.

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fact is exploited that (4) can be paraphrased as (6) and (5) as (7):
(6)
(7)

John doodled with his pencil and John took notes with his pencil.
John walked to the hospital or John was carried to the hospital.

Some use of paraphrase in the application of a logical calculus to English is


probably inevitable, but there is a general methodological objection to this strategy.
When a sentence has to be paraphrased before being analysed, the task of interpreting
natural language becomes less formal, as stress is shifted from formal semantics, where
problems can be dealt with explicitly at the theoretical level, to our pretheoretic and
unarticulated understanding of spoken language. Paraphrase sweeps semantic problems under the rug, and whenever we can see how to avoid using it we should do so.
In this case, however, there is a more specific objection: the paraphrases do not
always work. For example, consider (8) and (9).
(8)
(g)

Reluctantly, John bought gas and had the oil changed.


John intentionally kissed Mary or kissed Susan.

Sentence (8) can be true because it was doing both that John disliked-say, because
it cost too much-while he was not reluctant to do either separately. Similarly, John
could have intentionally kissed Mary or Susan by kissing the girl in the mask, knowing
that the girl in the mask was Mary or Susan. But in this case he neither intentionally
kissed Mary nor intentionally kissed Susan.
The structure of (g) is something like this.
John intentionally kissed Mary or kissed Susan

(Io)
John

intentionally kissed Mary or kissed Susan

intentionally
kissed Mary

kissed Mary or kissed Susan


or

kissed Susan

To capture this structure we need some formal way of building up complex predicates,
such as kissedMary or kissedSusan. Diagram (i o) suggests that this predicate is obtained
from kissed Mary and kissed Susan by an operation of disjunction. But in our logical
language the symbol v, corresponding to or, is a sentenceconnective.It links formulas,
not predicates.
It would be possible to solve this particular problem by creating another kind
of disjunction acting on predicates. But there is a far more general and deeper solution.
This consists in regarding the predicate kissed Mary or kissedSusan as derived from the
sentence He kissed Mary or he kissedSusan by a process whereby predicates are formed
from sentences. The relevant part of (io) will then appear as follows.

OF ADVERBS

THEORY

A SEMANTIC

kissed Mary or kissed Susan


he kissed Mary or he kissed Susan

/Z

or

he kissed Mary

he kissed Susan

There is a familiar logical device, known as abstraction,which performs precisely


this task. Abstraction has been used by logicians primarily in formalizing set theory
(and especially in higher-order logics), but recent work suggests that it may also have
a direct bearing on problems having to do with natural language.6 Abstraction can
be added to our formal language by stipulating that if A is any formula then (2Ax/u)
is a predicate,7 and that if X is a predicate and t an individual term then X(t) is a
formula.8
Abstraction yields a direct and natural formalization of sentence (9): (6x(Pxb v
, a for Joohn,b for
Pxc)) (a), where 6 stands for intentionally,Puv for ... kissed
Mary, and c for Susan. This formula has the following syntactic structure.
(ex(Pxb v Pxc))(a)
a

(6x(Pxb v Pxc))

x(PxbIv Pxc)
Pub v Puc
Pub

Puc

3. Scope and Adverbs


The difference between (7) and (i i)
( II)
John intentionally kissed Mary or John intentionally kissed Susan.
emerged in our logical language as a difference in scope, in the order in which formation rules are applied in constructing the formulas (6X(Pxb V Pxc)) (a) and (6XPxb)(a) V
(6Pxc) (a). Such formal differences of scope frequently correspond to distinctions with
6 We refer here to work of Barbara Partee's, as yet unpublished, concerning extensions of Montague
grammar. Also see Thomason and Stalnaker (I968) and McCawley (1970).
7 Ax/u is the result of replacing all occurrences of the individual parameter u in the formula A by occurrences of the individual variable x; for example, Puxfu is Px. When the notation 'Axlu' is used, it is presumed that
u is free for x in A, i.e. that no occurrences of u in A are within the scope of an abstraction operator x or a

quantifier(x). See Thomason(1970,

I49-I52,

175-178)

for furtherdiscussionof the syntacticterminologyused

here. We will sometimes drop parentheses where doing so does not result in ambiguity, and occasionally will
add them where this makes a display easier to read.
8 This introduces some of the apparatus of second-order logic, but even so our amended language remains
essentially first-order. The distinctive element of second-order logic, second-order quantification, has not been
added.

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which speakers of English are familiar, and which are expressed in English in a
variety of ways. For example, the sentences (I2) and (I3) will most naturally be
formalized by ( I4) and (I 5) respectively.9
(I 2)

(I 3)

He slowly tested all the bulbs.


He tested each bulb slowly.

(6X(y)Pxy) (a)
(I 5) (y) (6XPxy)
(a)
It is important to realize that the truth conditions of (I 2) and (I 3) differ. Sentence
(I 2) would be true if he took a long coffee break between each testing, even though
he tested each single bulb quickly. His testing of all the bulbs would then be slow.
The difference between (i 6) and (I7) is represented similarly.
(I 4)

(i 6)
(I 7)

He slowly tested some bulbs.


He tested some bulbs slowly.

In many cases like these there seems to be no difference in meaning between the
two scope readings of a single English sentence, even though the strategy of formalization predicts the existence of two such readings. An example is (i 8), which can be
rendered as (I9) or (20)
(i8)

John took all his friends to the ballgame.

( I 9)

(X) 6jPyx(a)

(20)

(6j(x)Pyx) (a)

where 6 stands for to the ballgame, Puv for . .. takes


, and, for simplicity, the
quantifier ranges over John's friends. In such cases, the absence of a difference in
meaning may be ascribed to particular semantic properties of the lexical items
appearing in the example: in this instance, to properties of to the ballgame.
In other cases, different scope readings of a single sentence will correspond to
significant ambiguities. An example due to Lakoff is the sentence (2I):
(2I)

Harry was willingly sacrificed by the tribe.

Let Puv stand for . . . sacrificed


, a for Harry,and b for the tribe.Then the sense of
in
which the tribe was willing appears as (22) and the sense in which Harry was
(20)
willing as (23).
(22)

(eXPxa)(b)

(23)

(6XPbx)
(a)

4. Predicate

Modifiers

and Sentence

Modifiers

In Section 2 we took it as intuitively evident that the proper parsing of John walks
slowly is john (walks slowly), not (John walks) slowly. That is, we assumed that the
9 For simplicity here, the quantifier has been taken to range over the bulbs.

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

adverb modifies the verb rather than the sentence. This may seem an innocent
assumption; slowly is, after all, an ad-verb and not an ad-sentence. But there are many
so-called adverbs, like possibly,probably,usually, and unfortunately,for which the alternative parsing seems more appropriate. The distinction between the two parsings is no
mere matter of convention since it influences logical relationships among sentences
containing adverbs. We will therefore try to back up our intuition with arguments and
general criteria.
We shall argue that there are two kinds of adverbs in English; some modify predicates, while others modify sentences. Since a unified theory of adverbs would be
simpler than ours, the burden of proof lies on us to make this claim good. We shall
first give some general reasons why it is important to analyze the scope of a modifier
correctly and second give some specific arguments for the claim that there are
modifiers of both kinds in English. These will in turn yield criteria for classifying
various adverbs either as sentence modifiers or as predicate modifiers.
It is obvious that if the scope of a modifier is analyzed as narrower than it
should be one will get a defective account of the job done by the modifier in some
sentences. If, for example, negation were treated as a predicate modifier, one would
have no way of representing the distinction between the two readings of (24)
(24)

Everybody didn't come,

one of which can be paraphrased by


(25)

Nobody came,

and the other by


(26)

(25)

(26)

Not everybody came.

In order to get the second reading, one must be able to include the subject of (24),
everybody,within the scope of the negation, and this is possible only if negation can
operate on sentences.
It is less obvious, but equally true, that if the scope of a modifier is analyzed as
wider than it should be, one will get an incorrect account of the logical relationships
among sentences containing the modifier and of the syntactic ambiguities in such
sentences. For example, if slowly is a predicate modifier, then John walksslowlyexhibits
the form X(a), the general form of a subject-predicate sentence. Hence, since (27) is
a valid form, the inference in (28) is valid.
(27)

X(a)
a=b
X(b)

(28)

John walks slowly.


John is the mayor of New York.
Therefore the mayor of New York walks slowly.

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But if slowly were analyzed as a sentence modifier, then John walks slowly would not be
an instance of X(a), and so the argument would not be valid in virtue of (27). The
analogous argument form for sentence modifiers, (29)
(29)

o(Fa)
a =b
o(Fb)

is notoriously invalid, as is shown by examples from the philosophical literature on


opacity such as the following.
(30)

Necessarily nine is odd.


Nine is the number of the planets.
Therefore, necessarily the number of the planets is odd.

On the relevant reading of the conclusion, it is false, even though the premisses are
true.10
We could, of course, treat adverbs like slowly as sentence modifiers and account
for the phenomena by introducing special semantic principles, or meaning postulates,
to validate inferences that seem valid for such adverbs. But as a general methodological
policy it is best, all else being equal, to explain semantic relationships in terms of
structure rather than in terms of the unanalyzed content of specific words. Thus the
apparent validity of the substitution principle when applied to contexts containing
a particular adverb will be treated as prima facie evidence that such adverbs are
predicate modifiers. This evidence, together with the absence of any counterevidence,
is the principal justification for treating slowly and other manner adverbs as predicate
modifiers.
What kinds of counterevidence will show other adverbs to be sentence modifiers ?
We will give four semantically based criteria for identifying sentence modifiers, and
show why these criteria establish that a great many adverbs and adverbial phrases are
in fact sentence modifiers. These criteria involve semantic notions such as scope,
ambiguity, and paraphrase, and they will depend for their application on only the
the most general and elementary assumptions about English syntax.
First, if an adverb precipitates counterexamples to the substitution principle,
this will establish it to be a sentence modifier.
10 In classical first-order logic, any sentence containing a name a is treated as having the form X(a).
Even though negation is a sentence operator, Pa is treated as an instance of the form X(a) and the inference
of Pb from -Pa and a = b is regarded as valid in virtue of the general substitution principle. Generalizing
from this model, one might treat any sentence of the form F(Pa) as having the form X(a), and regard the counterexample as showing that the substitution principle is not valid. But this, we think, would be a mistake. The only
reason that it is harmless in first-order extensional logic to treat any sentence containing a name as an instance
of X(a), is that for the restricted language Aalu is always logically equivalent to (xEAxIu)(a),which explicitly
has the form X(a). But that equivalence does not hold generally, as we have argued in Thomason and Stalnaker
(i 968).

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

Criterioni
Only if an adverb is a sentence modifier can it give rise to opaque contexts
everywhere in a sentence in which it occurs.
Even though Richard Nixon is the President of the United States, the sentence On a
numberof occasionsRichardNixon has died in officeis false while On a numberof occasionsthe
Presidentof the UnitedStates has died in officeis true. This shows that on a numberof occasions
modifies the sentence The Presidentof the United States has died in officeand not just the
predicate has died in office.Modal adverbs like necessarilyand probably and adverbs of
attitude like unfortunatelyare shown by this test to be clear cases of sentence modification. Some locative adverbs like in severalrestaurantsalso seem to create opaque contexts.
In severalrestaurants,the maitred' wears a tuxedomay be true, even if there is no one who
wears a tuxedo in several restaurants.
One must use a certain amount of care in applying this criterion. First, in order
to be sure that it is the adverb being tested that is responsible for substitution failure,
one should find a sentence that would have no opaque contexts if the adverb were
removed. Second, in order to be sure that the adverb can give rise to opaque contexts
everywhere in the sentence, one should find a sentence with all its singular terms in an
opaque context created by the adverb. An adverb may give rise to opacity within a
logical predicate and still be a predicate modifier."1 For example, John willingly trusted
Harry may be true while john willingly trustedhis worst enemyis false (on one reading of
the latter sentence), even if Harry is John's worst enemy. From this one can conclude
that the object of trustedmust be within the scope of the adverb willingly in those sentences, but one cannot conclude that John must be within its scope. And unless john
is within its scope it is not modifying the whole sentence. Hence the example fails to
show that the adverb is a sentence modifier.
If the opacity criterion fails to apply, this is no proof that the adverb is not a
sentence adverb, for it is possible for an adverb to be, like negation, a referentially
transparent sentence modifier. The adverb actually is a paradigm of a transparent
sentence modifier.
The second criterion succeeds in showing negation to be a sentence modifier.
Criterion2
Only if an adverb is a sentence modifier can it give rise to quantifier scope
ambiguities in simple universal or existential sentences.
In particular, if there can be a semantic contrast between Q-ly someoneF's and Someone
F's Q-ly then Q-ly is a sentence modifiier. So, for example, Frequently,someonegot drunk
contrasts with Someonegot drunkfrequently (on one reading of these sentences). The
11By a logicalpredicate,we mean a part of a sentence that corresponds semantically to a propositional
function. From the sentence Dick beatsHubertone may abstract two singulary logical predicates: beingone who
beatsHubertand beingone who is beatenby Dick. Or, using the abstraction operator, x(x beatsHubert) and ?(Dick
beatsx).

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semantic difference can be explained only on the assumption that frequentlyis capable
of modifying the sentence Someonegot drunk,and hence is a sentence adverb.12
By a simple universal or existential sentence, we mean one containing only one
quantifier and no singular terms. The claim is restricted to sentences which are simple
in this sense because it is not meant to cover scope ambiguities which result from
quantifiers within a logical predicate. For example, the contrast between Sam carefully
sliced all the bagels and Sam sliced all the bagels carefullydoes not show carefullyto be a
sentence adverb. For this contrast can be explained by the difference between (3I)

and

(32)

(32)
(32)

(x)(Pyx)(a)
(a))

(X) ((ejPyx)

where Puv stands for sliced, a for Sam, and 6 for carefully. These two formalizations
capture the required distinction, and in neither of them is carefullyrepresented as a
sentence modifier.13
But again, this test is not decisive. It is possible for an adverb to be a sentence
adverb, and yet operate transparently through quantifiers. There is, for instance,
apparently no semantic contrast between Actually, someonegot drunkand Someoneactually
got drunk.
Criterion3
If an adverb includes within its scope an adverb or adverbial phrase that has
already been shown to be a sentence modifier, and if the whole rest of the sentence is within the scope of that sentence modifier, then the original adverb is
also a sentence modifier.
The truth of this claim is obvious, even trivial. To apply it, it is useful to use conditional sentences, since if clauses are clearly shown by Criterion i to be sentence
modifiers.'4 If a conditional sentence begins with an adverb, and if one cannot
paraphrase the sentence by putting the adverb in the consequent, then there is reason
to conclude that the initial adverb modifies the sentence following it.
12 There is no
need to classify frequentlyas a predicate adverb as well as a sentence adverb in order to
account for the ambiguity between Frequentlysomeonegot drunkand Someonegot drunkfrequently.These can be
formalized by F(3x)Px and (3x)FPx, respectively. In the first formula F modifies a closed formula, (3x)Px; in
the second, it modifies an expression, Px, derived by substituting the variable x for u in the open formula Pu.
But in both cases F acts as a sentence adverb.
13 G. Lakoff, in Lakoff (1970, 233-234) uses the contrast between Sam carefullyslicedall the bagelsand Sam
slicedall the bagelscarefullyto argue that manner adverbs like carefullvmust be represented as sentence operators,
not as operators mapping predicates into predicates. His argument, however, fails to take account of the possibility that the contrast between the two sentences can be explained in terms of the contrast between two predicates in the way we suggest.
14 To illustrate this application of Criterion i, suppose it is in fact true that John Connally is
the man
who will be elected President in 1976. On one reading of If Daniel Berriganwill be electedPresidentin 1976, then
the man who will be electedPresidentin I976 will be a priest this sentence is true. But it does not follow that John
Connally will be a priest if Daniel Berrigan will be elected President in 1976.

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

For example, the two sentences (33) and (34) differ in meaning.
(33) Frequently, if John walked to school Mary walked to school with him.
(34) If John walked to school, Mary frequently walked to school with him.
On the other hand, (35) is unacceptable.
(35) Slowly, if John walked Mary walked with him.
If one forces a reading on it, it will be the same as that given to (36):
(36) If John walked, Mary slowly walked with him.
Locatives and temporal modifiers show themselves to be sentence modifiers by this
criterion, even though many of them fail the first two tests. For example, (37) and
(38) differ in meaning, as do (39) and (40).
(37)

In the morning, if John is told to walk then he walks.

(38) If John is told to walk, then he walks in the morning.


(39) In that restaurant, if John is asked to wear a necktie, he wears a necktie.
(40) If John is asked to wear a necktie, he wears a necktie in that restaurant.
The fourth criterion involves paraphrase.
Criterion4
Only if Q-ly occurs as a sentence modifier can one paraphrase the sentence by
deleting the adverb and prefacing the resulting sentence by It is Q-ly truethat.
Since the form of the paraphraseis an adjectival phrase that modifies a nominalized
sentence, the acceptability of the paraphrase would seem to be strong evidence that
the adverb modifies a sentence.
Again, this test works well on our paradigm cases. The sentences (4I) and (42)
are alike in meaning.
(40)
(42)

Sam frequently sucks lemons.


It is frequently true that Sam sucks lemons.

But (43) is clearly deviant, and not an acceptable paraphraseof (44).


(43) It is slowly true that Sam sucks lemons.
(44) Sam slowly sucks lemons.
To take a slightly different example, although (45) is not a deviant sentence, it differs
in meaning from (46).
(45) It is happily true that Sam sucks lemons.
(46) Sam sucks lemons happily.
According to our fourth criterion, this is evidence that happilyis ambiguous, having one
sense (roughly equivalent to fortunately)that is a sentence modifier and another
(roughly equivalent to gladly) that is a predicate modifier.

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Even though (47) is somewhat awkward, it is certainly grammatical, and means


the same thing as (48).
(47)
(48)

It is true in the morning that Mary beats her dog.


Mary beats her dog in the morning.

But like (43), (49) is deviant and does not qualify as an acceptable paraphrase of
anything.
(49)

It is true with a stick that Mary beats her dog.

Locative adverbs seem to be borderline cases for this criterion. Sentence (50) is
at best awkward as a paraphrase of (5I):
(50)
(5I)

It was true in the kitchen that Henri dropped the souffle.


Henri dropped the souffle in the kitchen.

But it is not as manifestly unacceptable as


(52)

(52).

It was true at his assistant that Henri threw the souffl.

And some sentences similar to (50), such as (53), seem perfectly acceptable.
(53)

It is true in several restaurants that women in trouser suits will not be


admitted.

All our criteria have been presented as sufficient conditions of being a sentence
modifier. Though it is strong prima facie evidence that an adverb is a predicate
modifier if it fails all four tests, we have no conclusive criteria that will prove it is not
a sentence modifier. Criterion 4, however, comes close to being a necessary and
sufficient condition. If the operation of this criterion results in utter nonsense, such as
(43), (49), and (52), we believe that this is good evidence that the adverb is a predicate
modifier.
All four criteria are semantic and are justified by semantic arguments. While we
feel these arguments are decisive in many cases, in others they are not entirely conclusive. It may be possible to use syntactic evidence to supplement our arguments and
criteria. If syntactic features can be found that distinguish the clear cases of predicate
modifiers from the clear cases of sentence modifiers (as distinguished, in part, by the
above criteria), then these features might help to decide cases on which the semantic
evidence is indecisive.15
15 Another test for separating predicate from sentence modifiers is suggested in Geach (I970).
Geach
points out that passionatelyandpresumablyis "syntactic nonsense" and suggests that this will apply to any conjunction of a predicate with a sentence modifier. But this test is unreliable. On the one hand there is nothing
peculiar about passionatelyand often, as in He spokepassionatetyand often against the bill, or willingly but seldom,or
intentionallyand becausepopularopinionwas against the war. And on the other hand, carelesslyand to Mary and twice
and if it is foggy sound just as peculiar as passionatelyand presumably.Without refinements of the responses to
evidence such as this, Geach's test does not seem workable.

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

5. Syntax of the Formal Language


The syntax of a formal language is specified by giving formationrulesfor generating
complex members of the syntactic categories of the language from simpler members
for the language, which lists the primiof any of these categories.16 Given a vocabulary
tive expressionsof each syntactic category of the language, the syntax will determine
the membership of each syntactic category.
Like the formallanguages discussedin Thomason (I 970, Chapter9), our language
will have the following syntactic categories: individual constants, individual variables,
individual parameters, and formulas. In addition, there is for each n (n > o) a category of n-ary predicates, for each n (n > o) a category of n-ary predicate adverbs, and
a category of sentence adverbs.
Many of the formation rules of the language are copied from first-orderlogic. If
the language is to possessconnectives v and for disjunction and negation, and the
universal quantifier-other truth-functionalconnectives and the existential quantifier
can be defined in terms of these-then we will have the following formation rules.
(54) If A, B are formulas then (A v B) is a formula.
(55) If A is a formula then (A) is a formula.
(56) If A is a formula, u is an individual parameter, and x an individual variable, then (x)Ax/uis a formula.'7
A fourth formation rule serves to define the category of individual terms, whose
membership consists of individual constants and individual parameters.
(57) If t is an individual constant or an individual parameter, t is an individual
term.
The formation rules having to do with predication are not to be found in the
standard syntax of first-orderlogic, which does not deal with the abstractionoperator.
These rules are as follows.
(58) If A is a formula, u is an individual parameter, and x is an individual
variable, then (SAxIu)is a singulary predicate.
(59) If X is an n-ary predicate (n > i) and t, .. . , t,, are individual terms then
X(tl, ...

tn) is a formula.

Before adding a clause allowing predicates to be constructed by means of adverbial expressions, an analogy is needed. Consider for a moment the generalization
that leads from individual constants to operators.An n-aryoperator correspondsto an
n-ary function on individuals; iff is a singulary operator, for instance, thenf(t) is an
individual term if t is an individual term. More generally, iff is an n-aryoperator and
tl, . . ., tn are individual terms thenf(t1 ... tn) is an individual term. Individual terms
16

In other words, the categories are built up by simultaneous recursion. See Montague (0970b, 377) and

Montague (I97oa,
17

202).

See Note 7, above, for an explanation of this notation.

208

RICHMOND

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STALNAKER

can themselves be thought of as o-ary operators since they require no individual terms
in order to produce an individual term.
We will not add operators to our formal language, but instead will perform a
similar generalization on predicate adverbs. A singulary predicate adverb f would
yield formulas of the kind {(a) (SPx) (b). Constructions corresponding to this formula
are common enough in English; typically a singulary predicate adverb will be realized
by a preposition. For instance, if Pu stands for walks, e for to, a for the store, and b for
John then {(a) (XPx)(b) will formalize the sentence John walks to the store.
The formation rule governing n-ary predicate adverbs (n > o) is as follows.
(6o)

If X is a singulary predicate, e an n-ary predicate adverb, and tl, ...


individual terms, then (f(tl, . . ., tn)X) is a singulary predicate.

The last formation rule of our language deals with o-ary sentence adverbs. As
one would expect, this resembles the rule for negation.
(6i)

If A is a formula and F is a sentence adverb then F (A) is a formula.

Suppose for the moment that the vocabulary of our language is arranged so that
x, y, and z are individual variables, a and b are individual constants, P is a singulary
and Q a binary predicate, e and 4 are o-ary predicate adverbs, s1 is a singulary
predicate adverb, and F a sentence adverb. Then among the formulas generated by
the above syntactic rules will be the following expressions.18

({P)a
F(Pa)
(4eP) a
{(XPx)(a)
(y)) (a)
'6(SQPx)

(x)(rlx(YQxy)(x))
b(X,Px) (a)

{(2(y)(Q( Qz.y)(x)))(a)
eX(Qxa v -qaPx)(b)

6. Formal Semantics
In setting up our semantic theory, we will make use of possible situations.'9 We will
think of propositionsas functions from possible situations into the truth values T and F,
18
Some of the formulas listed below do not seem to have counterparts in English. It is a commonplace
feature of logicians' formal languages that they permit syntactic constructions not corresponding to ones found
in natural languages, but this is not thought to reduce their logical interest or even their applicability to argumentation in natural language. Many syntactic discrepancies between English and the formal language
developed in this paper could be explained by supposing that English has no syntactic mechanism capable of
doing in full generality what abstraction does in logical languages.
19 Or possibleworlds,if you prefer more familiar terminology with a more robust, metaphysical ring; or
if you want a more neutral term that emphasizes the abstract character of the notion. Although
pointsof reference
these terminological differences suggest different applications and philosophical interpretations, from a formal
point of view they are equivalent.

SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF

ADVERBS

and of propositionalfunctions as functions from individuals into propositions.20 Our


present task of providing a semantic interpretation of predicate adverbs shows up
clearly the advantages of this decision. The framework of possible situations makes a
routine exercise of this task, and the resulting theory is at once general and explicit,
applying uniformly to all predicate adverbs of English and minimizing the need for
paraphrase in formalization.
Propositions are the intensions of sentences and singulary propositional functions
the intensions of predicates. Sentence adverbs will therefore denote functions taking
propositions into propositions, and predicate adverbs will denote functions taking
singulary propositional functions into singulary propositional functions. For example,
walks will have as its intension the propositional function that attaches the value T in a
situation a to those and only those individuals who are walking in a. Slowly will denote
a function applying to singulary propositional functions. When applied to the intension of walks, for instance, the value of this function will be the intension of walks
slowly, which in turn will be the propositional function that attaches the value T in a
situation a to those and only those individuals that are walking slowly in a.
This can be formulated precisely by treating the semantic interpretation of our
language like that of Q3 in Thomason (969)).21 Suppose we are given a model
structure <X, 9>. *' is the set of possible situations of the structure and 9 the set
of possible individuals. Let 90 be the set of functions from X to {T, F}. According to
what we said at the beginning of this section, 90 is to be thought of as the set of
propositions associated with the model structure. Let 91 be the set of functions from
.9 to g?o; gA1is the set of singulary propositional functions associated with the model
structure. Let VO/be the set of functions from 90 to 90 and -/2j be the set of functions
from 91 to g1. WOis the set of denotations appropriate for sentence modifiers and VI
the set of denotations appropriate for predicate modifiers. For n > i, let Q11be the
set of functions from the Cartesian power 9n to d11. Thus, if f c1
E
and dl, . . . , dnlE 9
then f(dl, . .. , dn) will be a function from 91 to '1.
A valuation V on a model structure <k, 9> assigns values to individual constants, individual parameters, and primitive predicates as described in Thomason
(I969). If a is an individual constant, then V(a) is a function from M to 9; Va(a)
is V(a) (a). If u is an individual parameter, V(u) is a member of 9. If P is a primitive
singulary predicate, V(P) is a member of 21. If e is a o-ary predicate adverb,
V(t) E s/l and, in general, if e is an n-ary predicate adverb, V(f) E Q1. Finally, if
F is a sentence adverb then V(F) E,40.
This suffices to characterize the lexical aspect of valuations, which consists in the
assignment of semantic values of the appropriate type to the primitive expressions of
20 For general discussions of this
technique see Montague (I 969), Scott (I970),
Lewis (I970), and
Stalnaker (1970). For a methodological account see Thomason ( I972a).
21
The semantic theory of Thomason (I969) has been modified here to make our presentation more
simple. We do not allow the domain to vary from situation to situation, nor do we introduce the relations between situations that are often employed in the interpretation of sentence modifiers.

RICHMOND

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the language. To complete the semantic interpretation of the language we lay down
the following semanticrulesshowing how an arbitraryvaluation V must assign values
to complex expressions. In these rules, Va(A) is the truth value given by V to the
formula A in the situation a. And where t is a term (i.e. an individual constant or
individual parameter), Va(t) is the member of -9 given by V to t in the situation a.
Where X is a singulary predicate, V,r(X) is the member of 91 given by V to X in the
situation a.22 Vd/u iS the valuation like V in its assignment of values to all primitive
expressionsexcept the individual parameter u; Vd/u gives u the value d.
(62)

If X is an n-ary predicate and t1,


Va(X(ti,

...

. . .,

tn

are individual terms then

tn)) = Tif and onlyifV (X)(<Va(tl),

* * ,Va(tn)>)(ae) = T.

(63) V(xEAx/u)is the function f in g1 such that where d e 9 and ie


f (d) (fi) = T if and only if Vd/u86 (A) = T.
(64) If X is a singulary predicate, f and n-ary predicate adverb and t1, ...,tn
are terms then Va(s(ti1 .

.. ,

tn)X) = f(Va (X)), where f = V(e)(<V(tl),

* * a)Var(tn)>)-

(65) If F is a sentence adverb and A a formula then Va(F(A)) = V(F) (f), where
f is the function in d40such that for all fiE X, f() = V8(A).

7. Some Applications
The semantic theory developed in the previous section is highly abstract and leaves
unexplored many questions that would have to be settled in the process of applying
the theory in detail to natural languages. For example, it is not possible to specify, for
any of the predicate adverbs of English we have used in our examples, the function
that is to count as its intension.23Applications of this sort, if they are possible at all,
will have to await further theoretical developments.
But if we count logical consequence as a feature of natural languages, semantic
theories such as ours will be applicable at least to this feature. A relation 1 of logical
consequence can be defined abstractly by referringto the class of all model structures
22
IfXis a primitive predicate or a predicate formed by means ofthe abstraction operator, Va(X) = V(X)
for all situations a and ,B;so, dropping the subscript, we may speak simply of V(x). But this generalization fails
to hold for predicates formed by means of predicate modifiers. For instance, Va(-qaP) is the result of applying
the function Va(qa) to the propositional function V(X). But Va(qa) will vary according to the denotation
Va(a) of a, and need not be a constant function of a. For this reason, neither need Va(,qaP) be a constant function

of a.

23 All that the abstract theory tells us is that, given a model structure <X., 9>, the intension of walks
will be some function taking members of 9 into functions from .Y* to {T, F}. It does not tell us how to go about
characterizing particular sets of possible situations and of possible individuals, such that there will be such a
function that can plausibly be called the intension of walks. To do this would presuppose a metaphysical theory
of what is to count as possible, as well as an analysis of the conditions under which an individual can be said to
walk. By saying that it is not possible to specify the intensions of certain English expressions, we mean that a
theory and analysis of this kind do not at present exist.

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

and the class of all valuations on these model structures,without having to designate
any particular model structure and valuation as the ones that are intended.
(66) Let r be a set of formulas and A be a formula. r IFA if and only if for all
model structures <X, 9>, all a E M' and all valuations V on <M, 9>, if
Va(B) = T for all B E r, then Va(A) = T.
An inference of a conclusion A from a set r of premissesis said to be valid(or, strictly
speaking, to be logicallyvalid) if and only if r IFA.
We can test and explain the definitions of Section 6 by showing how they
account for the logical character of certain inferences. As an example, we will show
why the inference (67) is logically valid while (68) is not.
(67) Oedipus intentionally marriedJocasta.
Oedipus is the son of Laius.
Therefore, the son of Laius intentionally marriedJocasta.
(68) Oedipus intentionally marriedJocasta.
Jocasta is Oedipus' mother.
Therefore, Oedipus intentionally married his mother.
As a first step, note that the formalizations of (67) and (68) are (69) and (70),
respectively.
(69)

(XPxb)(a)
a = a.,

6(XPxb)(a,)
(70)

(.Pxb) (a)

b =b
e(fPxb1)(a)
Here Puvstands for ... married , a for Oedipus,b for Jocasta,a, for theson of Laius,
b1 for Oedipus'mother,and e for intentionally.
Now, it follows from the definitions of Section 6 that any predicate X constitutes
a referentially transparentcontext for X in the formula X(t). That is, any inference
having the form (7I) is valid.
(7I)

X(t)

s=t
X(s)

To see this, note that if Va(X(t)) = T and Va(S = t) = T thenVa(X) (Va,(t))(a) = T,


so that Va(X(s)) = T. Hence, as a special case of (7I), the inference (69) is valid.

RICHMOND

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ROBERT

STALNAKER

On the other hand, inference (70) is not valid according to our theory. This
inference fails because Va(exPxb) and V,(exPxbj) depend on the propositional functions Va,(SPxb)and VE(XPxbi). Even though Va(b) may coincide with Va(bl) for some
situations a the two need not coincide for all a and, if they do not, the propositional
functions can differ, and so Va(Q(XPxb) (a)) and VaC(eQ(xPXbbi)
(a)) need not be the same
truth value.
We noted above, in Section 4, that the analogue of (67) fails for sentence adverbs.
And according to our theory the inference (72)
(72)

Nixon never met Charles Dickens


Nixon is the President of the United States
Therefore, the President of the United States never met Charles Dickens

though it resembles (67), is invalid because neveris classified as a sentence adverb.


The formalization of (72), that is (73)
(73)

N(Pcd)
c=c,
N(Pcld)C

does not have the form (7I), and in fact in N(Pcd) the term c occurs within the scope
of the operator N. It is a routine matter to show formally that (73) is invalid.
In making this point, however, it is important to remember that our formalized
language is syntactically disambiguated, in that each grammatical expression of the
language is assigned a unique syntactic structure.24 The semantics of the language is
then coordinated with the syntax in such a way that each grammatical expression is
assigned a unique semantic structure. But in view of examples such as John and Bill

or Mar will go in thecar and John meta manwhokisseda womanwholovedhim, English


cannot be regarded as disambiguated. Thus, it may happen that one expression of
English may be represented by more than one expression of our formalized language.
There is much evidence to suggest that the formal operation of abstraction is hardly
ever represented explicitly in English, and so is a plentiful source of such ambiguities.25
We may infer from this that the conclusion and first premiss of (72) are ambiguous.
And among the other formalizations of the inference is one that has the form (7I),
and so is valid.
(74)

N (Pxd)(c)
C=-C,

XN (Pxd (cl)
24

See Montague (197ob) for information concerning disambiguated languages.


The evidence is discussed in Thomason and Stalnaker (I968), where the corresponding ambiguity is
identified with the traditional distinction between de re and de dictouses of terms.
25

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

This reading of (72) can be captured in English by means of the locution is true of.
(75) It is true of Nixon that he never met Charles Dickens.
Nixon is the President of the United States.
Therefore, it is true of the Presidentof the United States that he never met
Charles Dickens.
Two important conclusions can be drawn from the ambiguity of (72). First, it is
an oversimplificationto characterize the difference between (67) and (72) by saying
that the first is valid while the second is not. More accurately, we should say that
whereas (72) admits a reading on which it is invalid, (67) does not admit such a
reading.26Second, it is possible to regard predicate modifiers in English as "special
cases" of sentence modifiers, in the following sense: sentences in which a sentence
modifier is used will admit a reading in which the sentence modifier is used, so to
speak, as a predicate modifier. Thus, The Presidentfrequentlyvisits Californiahas a
formalization (76)
(76)

(.fF(Pxb))(a)

where F stands for frequently, Puv for . . . visits

, a for the President, and b for

California,as well as a formalization


(77) F(Pab).
In sentence (76) the predicate is constructed by abstraction on F(Pub), in which F
modifies the formula Pub. But it would be equivalent to regard this reading of The
Presidentfrequentlyvisits Californiaas having the form (GF(2Pxb))(a), where {F is a
predicate modifier derived from F and satisfyinga semantic postulate to the effect that
(G('xAxlu))(t) is to be synonymous with (HF(Ax/u))(t),for all formulas A and terms
t. In this way, each sentence adverb can be thought of as giving rise to a derived
predicate adverb.27
26
According to Montague's semiotic theory these readings would be identified with assignments of
syntactic analyses to the components of the inferences, and these syntactic analyses would consist of trees showing
the order in which syntactic rules have been applied in generating these sentences from basic expressions. See
Montague (1970a) and Montague (1972).
27 We cannot, however, treat predicate modifiers in general as derived in this way from sentence modifiers
without imposing some semantic constraints on predicate adverbs that would not be required by a direct theory
according to which predicate adverbs are not derived from sentence adverbs. To see this, consider the formulas
(i) (x((yPxy(b)) (a) and (2) (50(xPxy) (a)) (b). They are not logically equivalent; there are interpretations on
which they express different propositions. Yet if the predicate modifier e were derived from a sentence modifier
F in the way suggested above, then (i) would be synonymous with (i a) xFPxy(b) (a) and (2) would be synonymous with (2a) yxFPxy(a) (b). The formulas (ia) and (2a) are logically equivalent, and so on any interpretations
they must express the same proposition. This in itself does not show that the required semantic constraint is not
a plausible one, but there is reason to think that the constraint is not satisfied by all predicate adverbs of English.
For example, suppose that Puv stands for . . . examines
, a for Mary, b for the doctor,and e for reluctantly.
Then
(2) corresponds to The doctorreluctantly
examinesMary, and (i) to the reading of Mary is reluctantlyexaminedby the
doctorin which the reluctance is on Mary's part. Since we are clearly dealing here with two different propositions, reluctantlymust not be considered to be definable by means of sentence modifiers.

RICHMOND

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THOMASON

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ROBERT

STALNAKER

Though this train of thought makes it possible to assimilate certain predicate


adverbs to sentence adverbs, it does not make the distinction between the two types
of adverbs trivial. For while a sentence adverb will also admit "de dicto" readings
having the form (77), predicate adverbs will not.
Beforeturning to other matterswe will considerone more example, due to Donald
Davidson, who in Davidson (I968) points out that (78) is a correct inference.
(78) I fly the spaceship to the morning star.
The morning star is the evening star.
Therefore I fly the spaceship to the evening star.
This is confirmed by our semantic theory, according to which the inference (79) is
valid.
(79)

ea(iPxb) (c)
a = al
ea, (.fPxb)(c)

On the other hand, the more complicated inference (8o) must be regarded as an'biguous.
(8o) I intentionally fly the spaceship to the morning star.
The morning star is the evening star.
Therefore I intentionally fly the spaceship to the evening star.
On one reading it yields an invalid inference resembling (68), namely (8i).
(8 I)

(y'ea (XPxb)(y)) (c)


a=al

(y'ea, (-fPxb)(y) ) (c)

Abstraction can be used in the way discussedabove, however, to produce a reading of


(8o) that is valid.
(82)

Aez(XPxb)(y)) (c))(a)

(A(

a=al

(zg(y'z(x~Pxb) (y)) (c)) (a,)

And still another reading of (8o), namely (83)


(83) ea(jA(QPxb) (y)) (c)
a=al
(

6an

Av

(XPxb)(y)
v(c )

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

results from reversing the order in which the adverbs of (8o) are regarded as applying.
This reading of (8o), in which only the flying is intentional and not its destination, is
harder to associate with the English sentence. But such a reading is readily associated
with slightly different examples, such as He intentionallyflew his plane within a few feet
of the rooftops,overa town called Hadleyville.

8. Adverbial

Constructions

and Validity

Logical validity is not a palpable, overt property of inferences couched in natural


language. For one thing, questions of validity depend on a syntactic analysis of the
language: if adverbs that are sentence modifiers are not distinguished from those that
are predicate modifiers, then inference (67) must be considered invalid, since it has
the same form as (72). Logical validity also depends on the extent to which the semantic theory of the language has been developed. A theory that does not treat few and
most as having fixed semantic interpretations will be unable to account for the difference in logical validity between the following two inferences.
(84)

Most doctors are men.


Most doctors are nonsmokers.
Therefore, some men are nonsmokers.

(85)

Few doctors are women.


Few doctors are smokers.
Therefore, some women are smokers.

If the theory puts no restrictions whatever on the quantifiers that interpretations may
assign to few and most, then an interpretation in which the customary meanings of
these expressions are exchanged is not excluded. In fact, the semantic theory of
logical validity will givefew and mostonly those inferential characteristics that can be
ascribed to all expressions that are construed as denoting quantifiers.28
Moreover, any syntactic-and-semantic theory of a language will determine a
relation of sameness of form among inferences such that all inferences sharing the same
form are alike valid or invalid. This means that imaginative talent is required in testing
inferences for validity, since an inference that strikes the ear as appropriate and correct
28
Inadequacies such as the one exemplified by (84) and (85) can be alleviated by adding certain meaning
postulates that serve to rule out unwanted interpretations, thus defining a nonlogical type of validity that renders
more inferences valid. As a referee of this paper pointed out, for instance, one could introduce a meaning
postulate for mostto the effect that P(most X) entails P(morethanhalf X). But though meaning postulates render
a semantic theory less abstract, in no nontrivial case will they make it so concrete that there will fail to be many
significantly different interpretations, each of which satisfies all the meaning postulates. And there are methodological reasons for seeking to avoid the use of meaning postulates. They detract from the coherence and systematic character of the resulting theory.

2I6

RICHMOND

THOMASON

AND

ROBERT

STALNAKER

may well have the same form as one that does not. Consider, for instance, the pairs
(86)-(87) and (88)-(89):
(86)

This is a tiger.
Therefore, this is an animal.

(87)

This is a cigar.
Therefore, this is an animal.

(88)

John realizes it is raining.


Therefore, it is raining.

(89)

John believes it is raining.


Therefore, it is raining.

A theory that does not distinguish between the ways in which tiger and cigar, or knows
and believes,interact with interpretations cannot distinguish between the validity of
(86) and (87), or that of (88) and (89).
These cautions are appropriate because many inferences in which adverbs figure
seem correct but nevertheless are invalid relative to our theory. We have put no
restrictions whatever on the set _s10of functions that can be assigned to predicate
adverbs. In particular, these functions need not commute with one another: where
f,g E a? f(g(p)) may differ from g(f(p)) for various p E bY1.Consequently, it is not
the case that (UeP) (a) IF(U4P) (a); therefore inferences such as (go)
(go)

John carried the eggs quickly to the wrong house


Therefore, John quickly carried the eggs to the wrong house

are classified as invalid, a result that clashes with the strong feeling we all have that
this inference is correct. But in the absence of a theory that enables us to distinguish
between quicklyand carefullywe must assign (go) the same form as (gi).
(gi)

John carried the eggs carefully to the wrong house.


Therefore, John carefully carried the eggs to the wrong house.

This inference does not appear valid. To be fair, however, we should add that it
does not appear invalid, either; the first impression it presents is one of puzzlement.
But the following account of (9I) explains why this should be so. In one of its senses,
the premiss means (92):
(92)

that John was careful in his manner of carrying the eggs, but not necessarily in carrying them to the wrong house.

And in one of its senses, the conclusion means (93):


(93)

that John was careful in carrying the eggs to the wrong house, but not
necessarily careful in his manner of carrying them.

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

Word order in English is not in general a very reliable clue to adverbial scope; an
adverb can usually be inserted in a variety of positions in a sentence without obtaining
results that differ in meaning. Thus, though the word order of (9I) is slightly more
natural in association with the senses we chose above, the premiss of (9i) can mean
(93) and the conclusion of (9 I) can mean (92). Since (93) clearly does not follow from
this explains why (9i) should not appear valid; it has a sense in which its con(92),
clusion can be false while its premiss is true. On the other hand, since (9i) also has
senses in which its conclusion and premiss say the same thing, we can explain why it
does not appear invalid.
Notice that it is natural to explain the ambiguity of John carefullycarriedthe eggs
to the wrong houseas one of scope.29 On the reading associated with (92) the scope of
carefullyis carriedthe eggs; on that associated with (93) it is carriedthe eggs to the wrong
house. If this is so, then commutativity must fail.
Another principle that holds for many adverbs and at first appears plausible is
that for all f, g e Q1, f(p, A P2) = f(pl) A f(P2)230 This corresponds to the joint
validity of inferences such as (94) and (95)
(94)

(a) A t(fQx) (a)


E(XPx)
5e((Px A Qx))(a)

(95) e(X(Px A Qx))(a)


(a) A e( Qx) (a)
Q(fPx)
But there are counterexamples to this principle, at least insofar as it implies (95):
(8) is such a counterexample. It is more difficult to find evidence against (94), and it
may be that this inference embodies a meaning postulate that could reasonably be
imposed on all predicate adverbs of English.
Perhaps the best known and most controversial inference pattern involving adverbs is exemplified by John walks slowly; therefore,John walks. Formally, this is (96).
(96)

6(SXPx)(a)

Pa
This inference is endorsed in Davidson (I968), but Montague in Montague (I970a,
I972) rejects it because of examples such as allegedly. T. Parsons in Parsons (I970),
likewise rejects it because of in a dream.But our tests for distinguishing predicate and
sentence adverbs show both allegedlyand in a dreamto be obvious sentence modifiers;
for instance, the premissesIn a dream,thePresidentof the U.S. is AbbieHoffmanand The
President of the U.S. is Richard Nixon do not imply In a dream, Richard Nixon is Abbie

Hoffman.
29
What is more, there seems to be no other way of explaining the ambiguity in question. For instance, it
cannot be due to a lexical ambiguity in carefully,since John carefullycarriedtheeggs in his left handto the wronghouse
is three ways ambiguous. Referring the ambiguity to scope predicts this phenomenon, while lexical ambiguity
is incompatible with it.
30
Here the symbol " A " represents conjunction of propositional functions.

2I8

RICHMOND

THOMASON

AND

ROBERT

STALNAKER

Once all adverbs are excluded that show themselves to be sentence adverbs according to our tests, it becomes very difficult to find counterexamples to (96). There
is at least one class of such counterexamples, however, that is general enough to deserve
mention. It often happens that a verb expressing the completion of some prolonged
activity will take adverbs such as halfway, indicating that the activity is completed
to a certain extent. These adverbs fail our tests for sentence modifiers and presumably
are predicate adverbs. But clearly, inferences such as (97)-(99) all fail.
(97)

He filled the tank halfway.


Therefore, he filled the tank.

(98)

He scaled the cliff to the first ledge.


Therefore, he scaled the cliff.

(99)

He sang the aria from the first cadenza.


Therefore, he sang the aria.

If enough examples such as these are forthcoming, the most natural approach to
(96), and the one to which we ourselves are most attracted, will be to refuse it logical
validity but to establish meaning postulates that guarantee the validity of many of its
instances.3' Since they must be imposed on a piecemeal basis, meaning postulates are
to be avoided. But it is difficult to see how to dispense with them entirely in any
systematic account of inference.

9. Some Open Problems


The syntax of our artificial language permits the formation of certain expressions
corresponding to nothing that can be said in English. One case of this phenomenon
originates in the fact that many predicate adverbs of English can be applied sensibly
only to certain kinds of predicates. The following examples illustrate cases where this
restriction has been violated.

(I02)

John is slowly tall.


John slowly ignored the music.
John slowly is captain of the football team.

(103)

John slowly does not walk.

( I04)

John slowly if he walks, walks barefoot.


John slowly walks frequently.
John carefully walks allegedly.

(i oo)
(Ioi)

(I05)

(i o6)

The peculiarity of these sentences need not be explained by classifying them as


syntactically ill-formed. It may be, in particular, that at least some of these examples
31

See Montague

(1972)

for examples of the use of meaning postulates.

A SEMANTIC

THEORY

OF ADVERBS

are to be regarded as resulting from the violation of selectional constraints imposed at


the semantic level.32 If this is so, then this phenomenon should be explained by setting
forth various kinds of propositional functions, and regarding adverbs like slowly as
denoting functions that apply only to certain of these kinds of propositional functions.
For instance, if the propositional functions are divided into states on the one hand and
eventsor actionson the other, then the function denoted by slowly will be defined only
for events or actions. If the predicates is tall, ignoredthe music, is the captainof thefootball
team, does not walk, and if he walks, walks barefootare then shown to express states, this
will account for the pecularity of (IOO)-(IO5).
This, of course, is highly informal and indefinite. As it stands, our semantic theory
provides us only with certain functions as the semantic values of predicates, with no
means of determining which such functions are states and which are not. The distinction between propositional functions that are "negative", for instance, and those
that are not cannot be made in terms of our present semantic theory. We are envisaging
here an extension of the theory, not a series of definitions carried out within the theory
itself.33
References
Clark, R. (1970) "Concerning the Logic of Predicate Modifiers," Nous 4, 3I 1-335.
Davidson, D. (I968) "The Logical Form of Action Sentences," in N. Rescher, ed., The
Logicof Decisionand Action,University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Geach, P. (1970) "A Program of Syntax," Synthese22, 3-I7.
Kalish, D. (I967) "Semantics," in P. Edwards, ed., TheEncyclopedia
of Philosophy,Macmillan,
New York.
Lakoff, G. (1970) "Linguistics and Natural Logic," Synthese22, I5I-27I.
Lewis, D. (1970) "General Semantics," Synthese22, I8-67.
McCawley, J. (1970) "Where Do Noun Phrases Come From ?"in R. Jacobs and P. S.
Rosenbaum, eds., Readingsin Transformational
Grammar,
Ginn and Company, Waltham,
Mass.
Montague, R. (I969) "On the Nature of Certain Philosophical Entities," The Monist 53,
159-I94.

Montague, R. (I97oa) "English as a Formal Language," in B. Visentini et al., Linguaggi


Nella Societa'e Nella Tecnica,Edizioni di Communita, Milan.
Montague, R. (I97ob) "Universal Grammar," Theoria36, 373-378.
Montague, R. (I972) "The Proper Treatment of Quantification in Ordinary English," in
J. Moravcsik and P. Suppes, eds., Proceedings
of the StanfordWorkshop
on Grammarand
Syntaxof NaturalLanguages,Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif.
Parsons, T. (1970) "Some Problems Concerning the Logic of Grammatical Modifiers,"
Synthese21, 320-334.
32
Here we assume that at least some deviant sentences, for instance Thefact that he is late regretsitself, are
to be explained in this way. For a semantic treatment of such examples see Thomason (0972b).
33 It is at this point that research in theories such as the one we have presented begins to make contact
with the work of Davidson and his associates. Davidson has restricted himself all along to adverbs that are to
be conceived of as modifying actions or events, and his program has involved philosophic inquiry into the nature
of these entities.

220

RICHMOND

THOMASON

AND

ROBERT

STALNAKER

Quine, W. (I970) Philosophy of Logic, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.


Reichenbach, H. (I947) Elements of Symbolic Logic, Macmillan, New York.
Scott, D. (1970) "Advice on Modal Logic," in K. Lambert, ed., Philosophical Problems in
Logic, D. Reidel, Dordrecht, Holland.
"Pragmatics," Synthese22, 272-289.
Stalnaker, R. (I970)
Thomason, R. and R. Stalnaker (I968) "Modality and Reference," Nous 2, 359-372.
Thomason, R. (I969) "Modal Logic and Metaphysics," in K. Lambert, ed., The Logical
Way of Doing Things, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.
Thomason, R. (1970) Symbolic Logic: An Introduction,Macmillan, New York.
Thomason, R. (0972a) "Philosophy and Formal Semantics," in H. Leblanc, ed., Truth,
Syntax and Modality, North Holland, Amsterdam.
Thomason, R. (I972b) "A Semantic Theory of Sortal Incorrectness," Journal of Philosophical
Logic I, 209-258.
Thomason
Departmentof Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 152I3
Stalnaker
Department of Philosophy
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14850