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Constraints on Numerical Expressions$
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Chris Cummins

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687909

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687909.001.0001

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Towards a pragmatic account of superlative quantifier usage

Towards a pragmatic account of superlative quantifier usage

(p.84) 4 Towards a pragmatic account of superlative quantifier usage
Constraints on Numerical Expressions

Chris Cummins

Oxford University Press

It has traditionally been assumed that comparative and superlative quantifiers (‘more/fewer than’, ‘at least/most’) can be analysed in terms of their core logical or set-theoretic properties. However, more recent research seems to cast doubt on the applicability of this kind of analysis to superlative quantifiers. Geurts and Nouwen (2007) specifically argued that superlative quantifiers possess an additional modal component to their semantics, on the basis of differences in the behaviour of comparative and superlative quantifiers, both in usage and interpretation. Their analysis also receives support from experimental results. This chapter further corroborates this claim, but argues that this may arise from a markedness implicature, caused by the difference in complexity between the two classes of quantifier. It then argues that this explanation can naturally be embedded within the constraint-based account, whereby the enriched meanings can be seen as a species of quantity implicature.

Keywords:   comparative quantifier, superlative quantifier, markedness, implicature, complexity, modality

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