4 July 2022
Semanticists usually distinguish between two types of conjunctions: Boolean (set-intersective) as in (1) and non-Boolean (non-intersective) as in (2):
(1) [John drank a bottle of wine] and [Mary drank a bottle of wine].
(2) [John] and [Mary] drank a bottle of wine together.
Unlike the conjunction in (1), the one in (2) implies the summation of the individuals (John, Mary) in the event of enjoying a single bottle of a grape aperitif. (For more about both types of conjunction, have a look at Manfred Krifka’s paper available here or Viola Schmitt’s paper paywalled here). The non-Boolean conjunction typically applies to individual terms and it’s related to pluralization (‘if I have a bottle and a bottle I have bottles‘). This brings me to the Polish thrash/heavy metal band KAT & Roman Kostrzewski, whose singer RK sadly passed away in February this year, shortly before his 62nd birthday.
I’ve always been intrigued by the band’s name. Namely, to what extent is it (or was it) non-Boolean? The issue is quite trivial when we consider only the grammatical status of the coordinated terms: the name of a group of musicians, KAT, i.e. a collective noun and Roman Kostrzewski, the singer’s name. The issue, though, becomes less trivial if we consider world-knowledge. And for everybody familiar with the band, it’s impossible not to. Namely, there’s been (or were) two bands, KAT (formed in 1979 and still active) and KAT & Roman Kostrzewski (2004-2022), with RK as a member of KAT until his departure from the band in 2004 when the latter was formed. The two bands (have) co-existed since 2004, KAT with different singers. This begs the question what exactly does the conjunct KAT in the band name KAT & RK refer to? The three immediate options are that it refers to (i) the band formed in 1979 and still active, (ii) a different KAT, the one that has nothing to do with the one formed in 1979, and (iii) that it refers to the band RK was a member of until his departure in 2004. With world-knowledge, options (i) and (ii) are easily eliminated and (iii) is correct, as the band KAT & RK were performing KAT’s songs from the period when RK was its member (plus their own songs recorded after 2004, but that’s a side note).
That complicates the non-intersecting, summative status of the conjunction in the band’s name as it implies that RK is present in both conjuncts: in the denotation of the collective noun KAT (the one that existed until 2004) and in the other conjunct as an individual. (I’m ignoring the issue of other band members since at least in the last couple of years, RK was the only former member of KAT in the KAT & RK’s lineup). In other words, the band’s name might be claimed to correspond to (3)(modulo other KAT & RK’s members).
(3) [RK ∧ other members of KAT formed in 1979] ∧ [RK]
But that can’t be true once we consider a similar-looking representation:
(4) [a lemon ∧ other fruits] ∧ [a lemon]
and realize that it implies the pluralization of lemons. In contrast to (4), the band’s name KAT & RK doesn’t imply the pluralization of RK at all. Hence, on the proviso that the pluralization of lemons follows from the description in (4), the description of KAT & RK as (3) is wrong.
It seems, however, that there’s a way to fix (3) such that it not only correctly predicts the lack of pluralization of RK but also allows me to discern why I’ve always felt a little caught off-guard about the band’s name, the feeling that became particularly saturated when attending their gigs. The repair is to rewrite (3) as (5) with two different RKs in each conjunct, let’s call them RK1 and RK2, where RK1 denotes the singer during his tenure with KAT (until 2004) and RK2 denotes the singer after his departure.
(5) [RK1 ∧ other members of KAT formed in 1979] ∧ [RK2]
Same singer but existing in two denotations, RK1 as the previous existence of RK2. With two different denotations of RK, (5) correctly doesn’t imply its pluralization. Comparing (5) with (4), let’s also note that the pluralization of lemons follows from the fact that a lemon of the first conjunct and a lemon of the second conjunct are members of the same set rather than copies of each other – clearly not the case with the denotations of RK1 and RK2 in the sense relevant to (5).