Generics articulate default generalizations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

26 Scopus citations


Generic sentences express generalizations about kinds, such as "tigers are striped," "ducks lay eggs," and "ticks carry Lyme disease." I present and review emerging evidence from adults and children that suggests that generics articulate cognitively default generalizations-i.e., they express basic, early-developing generalizations concerning kinds. In contrast, quantified statements articulate cognitively more sophisticated and taxing generalizations. Further evidence suggests that generic generalizations don't depend solely on information about prevalence. Instead, these fundamental generalizations are sensitive to a number of content-based factors, such as whether the property in question is dangerous or otherwise striking, or is an essential or characteristic property of the kind. This suggests that our most basic means of forming inductive generalizations is sensitive to rich, content-based factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNew Perspectives on Genericity at the Interfaces
PublisherPresses universitaires de Vincennes
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9782842923501
StatePublished - 2012

Publication series

NameRecherches Linguistiques de Vincennes
ISSN (Print)0986-6124
ISSN (Electronic)1958-9239

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


  • Concepts
  • Default generalizations
  • Generics
  • Quantifiers


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