Plural definite NPs presuppose multiplicity via embedded exhaustification

Clemens Mayr


There is evidence from bare plurals that strongly suggests that plural-marking on noun phrases does not exclude singular reference. This paper discusses the problematic consequence that such a view has for the analysis of definite plurals, namely that their multiplicity inference is not straightforwardly predicted. We adduce novel evidence that this inference is a presupposition arising from the application of the definite article to the plural noun phrase and that it cannot be explained away by a presuppositional analysis of number-marking (Sauerland 2003). It is proposed that plural- and singular-marking are scalar items subject to obligatory exhaustification (Ivlieva 2013). We show that global exhaustification is, however, untenable in the case of definite plurals, contra (Magri 2014). The semantics of the definite article is shown to force exhaustifiation to occur below itself on the noun phrase directly. Having reached this conclusion for definite plurals, makes it possible to drastically simplify the derivation of the multiplicity inference even in bare plurals when compared to competing proposals such as (Spector 2007a; Zweig 2009). 

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