Scalarity and alternatives of Japanese mora (letter)-based minimizers

Osamu Sawada


This paper investigates interpretations of the Japanese mora- (letter-) based minimizer “X.Y.Z”-no “X”-no ji-mo ‘even the letter “X” of “X.Y.Z”.’ I argue that this mora/letter-based minimizer has two types, a literal type and a non-literal type, and each type has different semantic characteristics regarding scale structure and computation of alternatives. In the literal type, X corresponds to the first mora of a target “X.Y.Z” and is construed as a minimum on the number scale of moras (among higher scalar alternatives). On the other hand, in the non-literal type it refers to the degree of a main predicate about the target “X.Y.Z” where X is construed as a minimum on the scale of the main predicate. That is, in the non-literal type, scale does not have to do with the number of moras, but with the degree of a predicate. I propose on the basis of the findings that in addition to a local minimizer whose alternatives are lexically activated (Chierchia 2013), there is a global minimizer in natural language, whose alternatives are activated by information contained in the main predicate.


Mora-based minimizer; literal reading; non-literal reading; scalarity; alternatives; local vs. global minimizers

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