The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

ESSL Meeting 3/5 - Yasu Sudo and Hadas Kotek

Speakers: Yasu Sudo and Hadas Kotek
Date/Time: Monday, Mar 5, 5:30p
Location: 32-D461

In this talk we will discuss our latest work on many and most. We will argue that the three readings of many that have been previously recognize in the literature, (1), can be detected for most as well.

(1) Many Scandinavians are Nobel prize winners
a. Cardinal: |Scandinavian Nobel prize winners| is largeC
b. Proportional: |Scandinavian Nobel prize winners| / |Scandinavians| is largeC
c. Reverse Proportional: |Scandinavian Nobel prize winners| / |Nobel prize winners| is largeC

In particular, we will show that most has a reverse-proportional reading, and in addition we identify a new reading of most which we call the fragile reading: a superlative reading which is sensitive to the number of comparisons that are made and to the distance between the numbers compared. The fragile reading prominently manifests itself in “strong” environments, for example in the subject position of individual-level predicates. These findings lend support to Hackl’s (2009) analysis of most as being composed of many and the superlative morpheme -est. We will suggest that the familiar proportional and superlative readings of most are derived from cardinal many; RP most is derived from RP many and fragile most is derived from proportional many. We will argue that proportional many is cardinally evaluative and discuss the implications of this suggestion.