Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 45–78 | Cite as

The comparative and degree pluralities

  • Jakub DotlačilEmail author
  • Rick Nouwen
Open Access


Quantifiers in phrasal and clausal comparatives often seem to take distributive scope in the matrix clause: for instance, the sentence John is taller than every girl is is true iff for every girl it holds that John is taller than that girl. Broadly speaking, two approaches exist that derive this reading without postulating the (problematic) wide scope of the quantifier: the negation analysis and the interval analysis of than-clauses. We propose a modification of the interval analysis in which than-clauses are not treated as degree intervals but as degree pluralities. This small change has significant consequences: it yields a straightforward account of differentials in comparatives and it correctly predicts the existence of hitherto unnoticed readings, viz. cumulative readings of clausal comparatives. Finally, this paper also makes the case that using degree pluralities is conceptually appealing: it allows us to restrict the analysis of comparatives by mechanisms that are postulated independently in the semantics of pluralities.


Matrix Clause Natural Language Semantic Measure Phrase Distributive Reading Atomic Degree 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Language and CognitionUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Languages, Literature and CommunicationUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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