Date of Degree

9-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Linguistics

Advisor

Sam Al Khatib

Committee Members

William McClure

Jon Nissenbaum

Yael Sharvit

Subject Categories

Semantics and Pragmatics | Syntax

Keywords

measurement, quantity, pseudopartitives, mereology, adjectives, relative readings

Abstract

This dissertation provides a novel analysis of quantity superlatives by bringing together research on three interrelated topics: superlative ambiguity, semantic constraints on measure constructions, and the internal structure of the extended nominal phrase. I analyze the quantity words, most, least, and fewest as superlatives of quantificational adjectives (Q-adjectives), but argue that these are often embedded inside a covert measure construction, rather than directly modifying the overt noun. I also introduce novel data showing that the measure phrases that appear in overt pseudopartitive constructions have more complex internal structure than previously assumed. Specifically, they may contain adjectives, including superlative inflection in which case a definite article may introduce the measure phrase. The question of how superlative morphology is interpreted inside a measure phrase opens the door to a new analysis of measure nouns and measure pseudopartitive constructions. This approach is then applied to the analysis of quantity superlatives as covert measure pseudopartitives. The result is a model that accounts for the difference in relative readings available for Q-superlatives and their non-quantificational counterparts in English, with implications for superlative interpretation across languages.

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