The grammar of relative measurement

Dorothy Ahn, Uli Sauerland


Relative measures such as percent and thirds relate one quantity to another. In several languages, determiner phrases containing relative measures can express two distinct construals: 1) The conservative construal in 'The company hired 55% of the women' considers the ratio of the company hires among all women. 2) The non-conservative construal in 'The company hired 55% women' is instead concerned with the ratio of women among the company hires. Other languages that distinguish the two construals using morphosyntactic means include German, Korean, Serbian, French, Georgian, Italian, and Hebrew. We present a syntactic and semantic analysis for the two construals. We argue that the non-conservative construal involves a different constituency of the measure-DP, and that focus semantics combined with a version of the copy theory of movement accounts for the non-conservative interpretation.

Keywords: quantification, measurement, relations, fractions, conservativity, universals, copy theory

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