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What do number words mean? (talk recording available)
Dr. Chris Kennedy
Tuesday, November 11, 2014, 01:00pm - 02:00pm
University of Chicago, Department of Linguistics
The analytical history of number words is the story of a syntactic mistake. Numerals have been variously thought to be determiners, adjectives, and names, and have correspondingly been given semantic analyses as existential quantifiers, relations between sets, cardinality predicates and singular terms, but none of these analyses support a fully satisfactory account of the complex range of semantic and pragmatic properties that numerals display. In this talk, I argue that numerals are properly analyzed as members of the category of degree expressions, which includes comparatives, intensifiers and other kinds of quantity terms, and that they denote second order properties of quantities. I support this analysis by showing that it supports a comprehensive account of a diverse range of facts, including the distribution of scalar ("one-sided" vs. "two-sided") interpretations of numerals, patterns of implicature with modified numerals, and the interaction of numerals and cumulativity.