Beck, Sigrid (2020):
"Indeterminate Pronouns in Old English: A Compositional Semantic Analysis." The Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 23.3: 203-269.
Journal Article

Abstract Indeterminate pronouns in Old English (expressions like hwa ‘who/what’ and hwelc ‘which’) permit several interpretations in addition to their use as interrogative pronouns, for example readings as universal or existential quantifiers. They combine with morphological prefixes (ge- ‘and, also’ and a- ‘always, ever’), which change the range of possible interpretations. Old English indeterminate pronouns are shown to contribute a crosslinguistically hitherto unattested pattern of available interpretations. In particular, bare indeterminate pronouns have a universal interpretation and ge-indeterminate pronouns can be both universal and existential. This paper offers an alternative semantic analysis in the spirit of Hamblin (Found Lang 10:41–53, 1973) and Shimoyama (Nat Lang Semant 14:139–173, 2006). A compositional semantics is given for the pronouns and the prefixes, which derives the available readings. The paper ends with a proposal for compositional semantic change relating Old English indeterminate pronouns to their modern descendants.