Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 63–98 | Cite as

On the grammar and processing of proportional quantifiers: most versus more than half

  • Martin HacklEmail author


Proportional quantifiers have played a central role in the development of formal semantics because they set a benchmark for the expressive power needed to describe quantification in natural language (Barwise and Cooper Linguist Philos 4:159–219, 1981). The proportional quantifier most, in particular, supplied the initial motivation for adopting Generalized Quantifier Theory (GQT) because its meaning is definable as a relation between sets of individuals, which are taken to be semantic primitives in GQT. This paper proposes an alternative analysis of most that does not treat it as a lexical item whose meaning is accessible without the help of compositional processes. Instead, proportional most is analyzed as the superlative of many (cf. Bresnan Linguist Inq 4(3):274–344, 1973). Two types of empirical evidence are presented in support of this view, both exploiting the fact that only a decompositional analysis of proportional quantifiers provides the means to generate different logical forms for seemingly equivalent statements of the form most A B and more than half of the A B.


Quantification Generalized Quantifier Theory Superlatives Degrees Verification Psycholinguistics 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and Cognitive SciencePomona CollegeClaremontUSA

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