Everybody found a cat and kept it. It ran away. [scope of 'everybody']

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
Irene Heim claims the second 'it' is not felicitously used in this sequence of words. Then it must sound awkward.

[1] Everybody found a cat and kept it. It ran away. (source: [5] on page 225 of 'File Change Semantics and the Familiarity Theory of Definiteness')

What would be an alternative? My mind tells me 'the cat' and 'the cats' work here, depending if they found one cat together, or if each of them found one cat with possibility of some of them sharing one here and there, respectively.

And connecting the two sentences resolve the problem?
[2] Everybody found a cat and kept it, and it ran away.
[3] Everybody found a cat, kept it, and it ran away.


Also, I think splitting the first sentence makes the first 'it' infelicitous. Am I right?
[4] Everybody found a cat. They kept it. It ran away.
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The original pair of sentences doesn't work for me, Hiro.

    Everybody found a cat and kept it is, I think only intelligible as meaning that (a) there were lots of cats and (b) each person found and kept one cat (from among the many cats). So It ran away doesn't make sense: there's no singular cat for the "it" to refer to.

    I don't think your [2] and [3] solve the problem:(. It's possible that something like Everybody found a cat and kept it, only to see it run away {after x days} might.

    I can't comment on [4] just now because my brain's in too much turmoil trying to process [1]-[3]:oops::D
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The problems in the example are examples of anaphora. The example has been chosen to be ambiguous/strange.

    (i) Should it be "Everyone found ø cats."?
    (ii) If there were 10 people, then there would be 10 cats. Should it be "They ran away."?
    (iii) Does "Everybody found a cat." mean there was only one cat?

    The "and" makes no difference to the problem.

    Each found a cat and kept them. The cats ran away. (There are other solutions.)
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    The original pair of sentences doesn't work for me, Hiro.

    Everybody found a cat and kept it is, I think only intelligible as meaning that (a) there were lots of cats and (b) each person found and kept one cat (from among the many cats). So It ran away doesn't make sense: there's no singular cat for the "it" to refer to.
    Hi, Loob.

    But on a slim chance they together could have found one cat, and shared it, couldn't they?

    I don't think your [2] and [3] solve the problem:(. It's possible that something like Everybody found a cat and kept it, only to see it run away {after x days} might.
    I can see it, Loob. The first two sentences share the sentence subject, everybody. So the scope of every- goes only as far as the first 'it.' After that, you can't use the pronoun it as the foregoing has more than just one meaning (???). You have to reset the ground by introducing 'the cat' or 'the cats.'
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Everybody found a cat and kept it. The cats ran away (Presumably because they saw what happened to their less lucky brother, who was found by all those people and held captive against its will :D).
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Everybody found a cat and kept it. The cats ran away (Presumably because they saw what happened to their less lucky brother, who was found by all those people and held captive against its will :D).
    By this do you mean the other cats, the cats other than the one caught, velisarius?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I mean that I find it difficult to interpret "Everybody found a cat and kept it" as meaning that each person found a cat, even when you add "the cats ran away".
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I mean that I find it difficult to interpret "Everybody found a cat and kept it" as meaning that each person found a cat, even when you add "the cats ran away".
    If "everybody" consists of people from multiple households, what would it mean for them to keep one cat? Whose house does the cat live in? Who feeds it? It's not logical to assume that it means "one cat" in that case.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The point of the example is not real life - it is an an example. There are doubtless better, more realistic examples.

    Everybody found a cat and kept it. It ran away.
    Everybody climbed a big tree and gave it a name. It fell down. There were 10 people, how many trees were climbed?

    I did not read the whole of the linked article but it seems to be somewhat abstract.
     
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