Structural ambiguity in DPs with quantity nouns


  • Luis Alonso-Ovalle McGill University
  • Bernhard Schwarz McGill University



DPs with quantity nouns (QDPs), like that amount of nuts, can combine with predicates of quantities, as in That amount of nuts is low, or with predicates of entities, as in Bo ate that amount of nuts. One account of such selectional flexibility, inspired by Selkirk (1977) and Rothstein (2009), assumes that the two types of predication are transparently encoded through two types of syntactic structures. In this paper, we draw attention to a syntactic challenge for this account of QDPs, viz.that in certain cases it requires two interpreted occurrences of an entity noun like nuts even though only one is pronounced. We argue, however, that this challenge must
be met and cannot be avoided by abandoning the structural approach. We make this case by arguing against an alternative analysis of the selectional flexibility of QDPs developed in Scontras 2017. On this alternative, quantity predication and entity predication with QDPs are derived from a uniform syntax, and entity predication with QDPs parallels entity predication with DPs with kind, like that kind of nuts, under the classic Carlsonian account (Carlson 1977) as developed in Chierchia 1998. We argue that Scontras’ analysis is mistaken, both in positing a unified syntax for the two types of predication with QDPs, and in unifying the analysis of QDPs with
the Carlsonian analysis of kind-DPs.