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Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 173–197

First Online: 09 March 2017DOI: 10.1007-s11050-017-9133-z

Cite this article as: de Vries, H. Nat Lang Semantics 2017 25: 173. doi:10.1007-s11050-017-9133-z


This paper argues that lexical and operator-based analyses of distributivity are not in conflict, but are both necessary components of any theory of distributivity that aims to account for all the relevant data. I use several contrasts between plural definites e.g. the girls and group NPs e.g. the group of girls to show that we need an operator-based analysis of distributivity; this kind of distributivity is available with plural definites but not with group subjects, which can be explained under the common assumption that group NPs denote atoms rather than sums and hence do not allow quantification over their individual parts. At the same time, we need a lexical theory of distributivity to account for the various distributive interpretations that we do find with groups; a formalisation of such a theory is outlined in the final section of this paper.

KeywordsDistributivity Quantification Group nouns Non-logical inferences This paper owes a lot to comments from and discussions with Yoad Winter, Roger Schwarzschild, Lucas Champollion, Remko Scha, the audience at NELS 2012, and two anonymous reviewers. The research reported in this paper was funded by an NWO Vici grant to Yoad Winter.

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Author: Hanna de Vries


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