Colloquium: Numerical quantifiers, ignorance and free choice

November 10, 3:30-5pm
Rick Nouwen, UiL-OTS/Utrecht University

The landscape of complex numerical quantifiers (CNumQs) contains a wide variety of expressions, such as simple comparatives ("more than 100 books"), differential comparatives ("no more than 100 books"), superlatives ("at least 100 books"), disjunctions ("100 books or more"), prepositions ("over 100 books"). In a recent paper (Nouwen 2010), I argued that there are two subclasses of CNumQs, namely a distinction between those quantifiers that systematically resemble disjunction with respect to the kind of implicatures they trigger and those quantifiers that lack this close resemblance. Interestingly the division among CNumQs looks the same cross-linguistically. In this talk, I will explore ways of making sense of the distinction semantically and pragmatically. One tempting idea is to assume that the distinction concerns the distinction between on the one hand quantifiers expressing the relations "<n" or ">n" and on other the quantifiers that express "≥n" or "≤n". I will point out some problems for such a theory and suggest an alternative characterisation.