Proportional implies relative: A typological universal


  • Elizabeth Coppock University of Gothenburg
  • Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten University of Gothenburg
  • Golsa Nouri-Hosseini
  • Saskia Stiefeling University of Gothenburg



superlatives, quantity words, proportional quantifiers


We give evidence from a geographically, genetically, and typologically diverse set of languages (drawn from 26 different language families and every continent) for the following typological universal: Regardless of the morphosyntactic strategy used by a language to form superlatives, if superlative morphosyntax can be applied to 'much' or 'many', then the result can be used to express a relative reading (as in Hillary has visited the most continents (out of everyone)) but not necessarily a proportional reading (as in 'Hillary has visited most of the continents'). Thus, no language deploys the regular superlative of 'much'/'many' for the proportional but not the relative reading. We also give a rough estimate of how rare proportional readings for quantity superlatives are: about 10%. Nevertheless, we show that proportional readings arise with a diverse set of strategies for forming superlatives. 




How to Cite

Coppock, Elizabeth, Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten, Golsa Nouri-Hosseini, and Saskia Stiefeling. 2017. “Proportional Implies Relative: A Typological Universal”. Proceedings of the Linguistic Society of America 2 (June): 12:1–15.