The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG 4/22 - Sarah Ouwayda

WHO: Sarah Ouwayda
WHAT: Cardinals Without Plurality
WHEN: April 22, 2:00PM-3:15PM
WHERE: 32-D831


Lebanese Arabic nouns display the singular-plural distinction morphologically, and adjectives and verbs typically show number agreement. Following cardinals larger than 10 in Lebanese Arabic, nouns are never plural-marked, and verbs and adjectives are optionally plural-marked. Notably, the presence vs. absence of plural marking on verbs and adjectives in this context is reflected semantically: When a verb is plural-marked, both a collective and a distributive reading are available, when it is not plural-marked, the collective reading is unavailable. Moreover, unmarked adjectives can modify only predicates of atomic individuals, and plural-marked ones can modify only predicates of pluralities. I take the absence of collective readings in unmarked cases to mean that, in this context, not just adjectives but verbs can compose semantically with the (non-plural) noun despite the presence of a cardinal, and that while a semantic plurality in this context may be dependent on the presence of some morpheme associated with plurality (e.g. cardinal or plural marking) the converse is not true for cardinals: the presence of a cardinal does not entail the presence of a semantic plurality. In other words, in Lebanese Arabic, not only do cardinals not compose with pluralities, but a noun phrase containing a cardinal, as a whole, is not necessarily semantically plural when composing with the verb. Based on these semantic effects, I argue that, if one assumes the noun phrase is an indivisible constituent, cardinals (at least cardinals larger than 10 in Lebanese Arabic) are best treated as being of type n (Zabbal 2005), rather than as modifiers (Ionin & Matushansky), determiners (e.g. Montague 1974), or predicates (Partee 1986).