Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 45–78

The comparative and degree pluralities

Open Access
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11050-015-9119-7

Cite this article as:
Dotlačil, J. & Nouwen, R. Nat Lang Semantics (2016) 24: 45. doi:10.1007/s11050-015-9119-7

Abstract

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.

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© The Author(s) 2015

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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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