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The semi-lexicality of quantification¬al nouns in English pseudopartitives

Thursday 20 April 2017
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


In this talk, I discuss the use of the quantificational nouns lot, ton, and bunch (Q-nouns) in Eng­lish pseudopartitives. These elements show a mixed behavior, functioning as quantifiers (i.e. they say something about the quantity of the following noun), despite having an apparently nominal morphosyntax. In particular, they surface with both an indefinite article and the particle of (1)-­(3), just as non-quantifying nouns do (4). Ton and lot, furthermore, allow for plural marking (5)-­(6) in their quantifying function.

(1)           A bunch of people

(2)           A ton of flowers

(3)           A lot of books

(4)           A gathering of friends

(5)           Tons of flowers

(6)           Lots of books

I report on the morphosyntactic properties of these Q-nouns, including their behavior with re­gards to Agreement, drawing extensively on data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English (Davies 2008-), as well as speaker judgments. I explore the similarity of Q-nouns to oth­er quantificational elements, like numerals (three, a hundred) and quantifiers (a few, many), as well as their similarity to lexical nouns. I develop the hypothesis that Q-nouns are semi-lexical (see van Riemsdijk 1998, Corver and van Riemsdijk 2001, among others), and show how a prop­er understanding of their semi-lexicality can allow us to account for their mixed behavior.

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