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Numerals and scalar implicatures

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Abstract

In this paper we explore the relation between the meaning of number denoting determiners (‘numerals’) and the polarity of the context in which they occur. We claim that when numerals are embedded in positive (i.e. Upward Entailing) contexts they are given an upper bounded (‘exactly’) reading more often than when they are embedded in minimally different Downward Entailing contexts. Since this corresponds to the behavior of scalar triggers, we suggest that the stronger interpretation of a numeral is really due to a Scalar Implicature. We review the outcome of two experiments, a questionnaire and a reading task where eye movements were recorded, which tested this claim empirically. Finally, we discuss these findings in light of the current approaches on the semantics of numerals, analyzing in detail the relation between the meaning of a numeral and scalar strenghtening.

References

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