The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 11/15 - Lorenzo Pinton (MIT)

Speaker: Lorenzo Pinton (MIT)
Title: Two puzzles for gather-like and numerous-like predicates. Anti-restrictiveness, maximality, and triviality in plurals
Time: Wednesday, November 15th, 1pm – 2pm
Location: 32-D461

Abstract: Among collective predicates, gather (and alike) and numerous (and alike) have been noticed to give rise to different patterns when plural quantifiers are involved (Kroch, 1974; Dowty et al., 1987; Champollion, 2010; Kuhn, 2020). In the first part of the talk, I present an analysis for a new asymmetry between the two predicates in restrictive relative clauses noticed by Martin Hackl (p.c.):

(1) I only talked to the students that gathered.

(2) #I only talked to the students that were numerous.

I tie the different patterns to a difference in restrictiveness, showing that restrictive modification of pluralized predicates by numerous is blocked whenever a maximality requirement (like that of the definite article the) applies on top because of triviality (possibly in the style of Gajewski (2002). That is because numerous is permutation invariant (PI) with respect to members of sums, and when a PI predicate modifies a pluralized predicate (like *students), the maximal sums obtained before and after modification are identical. Crucially, modifying students with a collective predicate like gather makes restriction by numerous available (Hackl, p.c.):

(3a) I only talked to the gathered students that we numerous.

This is predicted, under the assumption that for collective predicates we can delay pluralization until after combination with numerous, in order to avoid triviality, giving rise to the following LF for (3a):

(3b) Jack only talked to [the [* [ [ [gathered][*[students]] ] […numerous] ] ]]

In the second part of the talk, I present joint work with Janet Guerrini on another previously unobserved asymmetry between gather-like and numerous-like predicates, this time involving bare plurals. Whereas the former can give rise to generic readings, the latter cannot:

(4) Gathered students are loud. (Generally, when students are gathered, they are loud)

(5) Numerous students are loud. (#Generally, when students are numerous, they are loud)

We present evidence for kind-based approaches' to bare plural generics (Chierchia, 1998; a.o.) over what we callambiguity approaches’ (Diesing, 1992; a.o.), showing that the latter overgenerate, predicting unobserved generic readings when numerous-like predicates modify bare plurals in (5). We claim that on kind-based approaches, such generic readings are directly ruled out because of a maximality operator which leads to triviality, following the analysis proposed in the first part of the talk. Evidence from ellipsis will show that GEN needs indeed to be polymorphic (Chierchia et al., 1995), but strongly constrained to bind the lowest possible type, given parallelism. I conclude the talk with crucial counterexamples that might undermine the analyses proposed, and for which I currently don’t have a full-fledged solution.