Plurality, maximality and scalar inferences: A case study of Mandarin Dou



The Mandarin functional morpheme dou appears to have been interpreted, among other things, as a distributor, focus marker even, or already. This paper aims at providing a unified semantic account for these different uses. I argue that the semantic core of these different usages is the same: dou is simply a maximality operator. It gives rise to different meanings by applying maximality to a contextually determined plural set. This could be a set of covers, a set of focus-induced alternatives, or a set of degrees ordered on a scale. This analysis also connects dou in these contexts with dou in environments that license polarity items, as discussed in Giannakidou and Cheng (J Semant 23: 135–183, 2006).


Dou Maximality Distributivity Plurality Scales Focus Degree constructions 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linguistics Department, Boylston Hall, Third FloorHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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