Scalar diversity and ignorance inferences: An experimental study on 'at least' as a modifier of numerals vs. adjectives

Stavroula Alexandropoulou


This work presents results from an experiment that investigates whether at least as a modifier of gradable adjectives (e.g., at least misleading) triggers speaker ignorance inferences just as has been established for at least as a numeral modifier (e.g., at least two). I find that, while at least gives rise to ignorance inferences with both types of scalar expressions, this happens in varying degrees, contra existing accounts of at least (Geurts & Nouwen 2007; Cohen & Krifka 2014) and in line with experimental evidence on the scalar inferences of unmodified adjectives and numerals (Doran, Baker, McNabb, Larson & Ward 2009), known as scalar diversity. I also find indications that the scale structure of adjectives may affect the availability of ignorance inferences, as in the case of scalar implicature computation for unmodified adjectives (Gotzner, Solt & Benz 2018a), yet in a reverse manner.

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