Comparing theories of quantifiers in than clauses: Lessons from downward-entailing differentials

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Nicholas Fleisher


I investigate the effect of differential-phrase entailingness on the interpretation of comparative than clauses with quantificational subjects, a matter that has gone largely overlooked in the otherwise fecund recent literature. I show that only a subset of theories that derive the right readings for than clauses with quantifiers in the presence of an upward-entailing differential successfully generalize to cases with nonmonotone or downward-entailing differentials. The empirical paradigm presented here thus serves as an indispensable test suite for theories of comparatives and a useful probe for metatheoretical investigation. In particular, I show that theories in which the degrees associated with the than-clause-internal quantifier are not distributed over the matrix degree relation (encapsulation theories) fail to generate the right readings with downward-entailing differentials (and they generally require ad hoc tweaks in order to handle nonmonotone differentials). Theories in which those degrees are distributed over the matrix degree relation (entanglement theories) correctly derive the entire paradigm without further ado. I survey a number of recent theories of each type.

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