The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 9/25 - Keny Chatain (MIT)

Speaker: Keny Chatain (MIT)

Title: What cumulative asymmetries tell us about weak readings and vice-versa

Time: Wednesday, September 25th, 1pm – 2pm

Location: 32-D461

Abstract: There is an asymmetry between subject and object every: object every gives rise to cumulative readings ; subject every doesn’t (Kratzer, 2000).

(1) 3 detectives, 27 suspects

  1.  The three detectives interrogated every suspect (ok, 9 suspects each)
  2.  Every detective interrogated the 27 suspects (*9 suspects each)

Another asymmetry comes from weak cumulative readings. There has been hints in the literature (Buccola and Spector, 2016; Haslinger and Schmitt, 2019) that the cumulative truth-conditions of (2), given in (2a), are sometimes as weak as (2b).

(2) The 10 children inflated the 25 balloons

  1. Every balloon was inflated by a child and every child inflated a balloon
  2. Every balloon was inflated by a child period

The weak truth-conditions of (2b) are asymmetric ; they impose exhaustive participation of the theme in the event, but have no such requirement on the agent.

In this talk, I will argue that the two asymmetries have a common origin. I will bring two facts in support of the claim: 1) expanding the dataset to more arguments and positions, I will show that the two asymmetries pattern the same and that (more or less,) the positions that require exhaustive participation are the positions from which a cumulative reading of every is possible, 2) data from NPI licensing will show that the strong reading of (1) must obtain via strengthening of a weak reading like (2b) (following Ivlieva (2013)). I will present an account of these facts making minimal theoretical commitments, with the following properties:

  • cumulativity is uniformly weak (in the sense of 2b) and asymmetric ; the order of integration of thematic roles into the event predicate determines the asymmetry.
  • the meaning of every is standard, does not make reference to events, but nonetheless gives rise to cumulative readings (rejoining Champollion (2010)).
  • ** operators are not needed to derive cumulative readings of non-lexical two-place predicates.

At the end of the talk, we will be short of an explanation of how (2b) strengthens to (2a). Suggestions from the audience will be met with the earnest-est gratitude.