Plurality markers across languages

Date of Completion

January 2006


Language, Linguistics




This thesis investigates the semantic behavior of plurality markers across languages, mainly related to the phenomenon of distributivity. One of the goals of this thesis is to given a compositional account of the so-called distance-distributivity markers (D-D markers) including English each , German jeweils, Korean ssik, and Japanese zutsu. D-D markers have been a challenge to compositional semantics since the distribution does not occur over an argument they are attached to but over an argument at a distance. Arguing that the D-D markers are Distributive Polarity Items which are licensed within the scope of a Distributivity-Operator (D-Operator), this thesis presents a new compositional analysis which mainly takes a QR approach. I also argue that events need to be present as an explicit argument at the structure and this gives the right result in deriving the possible interpretations of the construction. ^ This thesis shows that the proposed analysis of D-D markers can be extended to the pluractionality marker one at a time. Mainly based on the facts of Korean 'one at a time' construction, propose that 'one at a time' should be decomposed in its semantics into two parts: 'one' and 'at a time.' Then the distributive interpretations can be derived from the interaction between the basic D-D marker construction and a D-Operator which is based on the adverbial expression 'at a time.' The 'one at a time' construction further supports the proposed analysis of the D-D markers, by providing a better compositional account of the construction. ^ Finally, this thesis examines the semantic behavior of other plurality markers including Korean kakkak 'each,' maypen 'each-time/occasion,' Japanese sorezore 'each,' and so on, and present a compositional account to derive the interpretations. Instead of presenting a unified analysis of all the plurality markers, I argued that the distributivity of these items should derive from their lexical meaning itself, In this respect, they work similarly to the D-Operator. The thesis shows that the proposed analysis presenting D-D markers as DPIs and other distributivity markers as having distributive lexical denotation can account for the properties and interpretations of the plurality markers. The main contribution of this thesis lies in that the proposed analysis will allow new insights into the cross-linguistic behavior of distributivity and pluractionality and lead to a better understanding of plurality in general. ^