Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Sarah Ouwayda (Geneva): Singular with numerals: The role of the DP in collective interpretations

Exploiting data from Lebanese Arabic DPs containing numerals, I argue that the presence of a cardinal numeral in a DP does not make it syntactically plural (e.g. triggering plural agreement) or semantically plural (e.g. allowing collective interpretation). Rather, numerals enter the syntax as type n arguments, and depending on the function that mediates between the numeral and the rest of the DP, numerals then appear to behave either like determiners or like modifiers (cf. Scha 1981, Zabbal 2005). But crucially, I argue that they are, in and of themselves, neither. I propose that it is only when numerals merge in a lower position, appearing to behave like modifiers, that an utterance containing a numeral admits a collective interpretation.
I argue that the collective interpretation of a given utterance is crucially dependent on the structure of its DP. Specifically, I propose that the availability of a collective interpretation is dependent on the merger of a ?pluralizing? function # in the DP which has both semantic and syntactic manifestations. In the absence of #, no collective interpretation is possible regardless of the predicate that the DP composes with. In the presence of #, a collective interpretation, a co-distributive interpretation, and a distributive interpretation are all available, depending on the predicate that the DP composes with.