Anna Szabolcsi, New York University

Friday, November 8th at 4 pm, Humanities 1, room 210

What do quantifier particles do?   

In Szabolcsi (2010: Ch 12.5) and subsequent work I embarked on a program to investigate the compositional semantics of quantifier words. Taking apartsomeone and everyone and specifying what the quantifier particles and the indeterminate pronoun mean are not daunting tasks. The interesting part of the project begins when we observe that in many languages, the “quantifier particles” also serve in multiple other roles, and set out to investigate whether and how the same interpretations extend to those contexts. Best-known is the case of Japanese, where “someone” (dare-ka) is formed with the morpheme ka and “everyone/anyone” (dare-mo) with the morpheme mo, both of which have busy lives of their own. In addition to indefinites, ka shows up in disjunctions (John-kaMary(-ka)) and questions (Dare-ga VP kaJohn-ga VP ka) . In addition to universals, mo serves as an additive and scalar particle (John-mo)  and shows up in distributive conjunctions (John-mo Mary-mo). Hungarian vala/vagy, -emind, and is exhibit very similar behavior. A natural first stab is to observe that members of the cross-linguistic KA family are join operators, whereas members of the MO family are meet operators. This talk will confront a particular problem for that interpretation: the fact that in many constructions multiple copies of the same particle occur. A semantic approach will be proposed.

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