Pragmatic inferences with numeral modifiers: Novel experimental data

Stavroula Alexandropoulou, Jakub Dotlacil, Yaron McNabb, Rick Nouwen


We present two experiments that probe so-called variation effects of modified numerals that appear in the scope of a universal quantifiers (Geurts & Nouwen 2007; Büring 2008). For example, Every street was guarded by at least three policemen suggests that not every street was guarded by the same number of policemen. This kind of variation is similar to inferences observed with epistemic indefinites. We show, however, that indefinites and modified numerals must differ with respect to the underlying mechanism, or, more specifically, with respect to the structure of the set of alternatives that determines the pragmatic inferences. Results from our experiments indicate that the variation effects of modified numerals include the inference of a witness for the lowest number compatible with the modified numeral. We found the same effects for at least as for more than, but the inferences are weaker for the latter.

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