Plurality and distributivity

Yoon-kyoung Joh, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation mainly provides a unified compositional analysis for dependent plurals and anti-quantifiers. Furthermore, finding the uniformity in the two uses of plurals and in the three uses of distributive quantifiers, I claim that plural markers such as s in English and tul in Korean and distributive quantifiers such as each in English and ssik in Korean are fundamentally the same. This uniformity is attested in a variety of syntactic configurations such as in the argument position or in the adjunct position of intransitive, transitive, and ditransitive sentences. In presenting this unified analysis, I crucially use two operations: pluralization and group formation. The pluralization operator is directly translated by all kinds of distributive particles such as ordinary and dependent plurals and distributive quantifiers. The group formation produces a collective reading and a maximality effect, further providing a new counting unit to its members. The two operations not only explain all the constructions involved with distributivity, but also adequately account for conditions that constrain distributivity. Even more, the two operations exhaustively account for the Korean plural system. Korean plural expressions that look divergent and unorganized at the surface are, in fact, remarkably systematic at a deeper level that includes groups as well as sums. These two operations can be covertly manifested and the covert operations allow us to explain seemingly unrelated structures in a uniform way. My analysis, based on the fact that distributivity is plurality, has the advantage of reducing redundancy in the grammar and obtaining explanatory adequacy on empirical grounds. It directly reveals the logical relationship between a plural marking and a distributive interpretation. The fact that the plural marker produces both plurality and distributivity is not coincidental but reflects a significant principle of natural languages. My account of distributivity based on plurality further explains its natural correlation with cumulativity and maximality. In fact, plurality and distributivity are not only parallel on the semantic level but also on the pragmatic level due to the aspect that distributivity includes collectivity, just as plurality includes singularity.

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Recommended Citation

Joh, Yoon-kyoung, "Plurality and distributivity" (2008). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3328589.