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Raising and Resolving Issues with Scalar Modifiers

Semantics and Pragmatics
Year of publication: 
Scientific journal article - peer reviewed

This paper argues that the superlative modifiers "at least" and "at most" signal lower and upper bounds, respectively, on the true answers to the question under discussion (QUD), and that they are inquisitive. Paired with an analysis of "only" on which it presupposes a lower bound on the QUD and asserts an upper bound on the QUD, our analysis of superlative modifiers yields a unified picture of these scalar items, and accounts for the connection between them. This analysis also successfully accounts for their truth conditions, focus-sensitivity, distribution, and interaction with modals. Analyzing "at least" and "at most" as inquisitive in the inquisitive semantics sense yields a satisfactory account of the fact that, in contrast to corresponding sentences without such items, they do not give rise to quantity implicatures, and yet they do give rise to ignorance implicatures, in contrast to comparatives. Superlative modifiers thus both depend on the QUD for their interpretation, and raise issues for discussion.


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Page updated: 2013-08-11 21:34

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