November 20: Hanna de Vries (Utrecht University) – LUCL

We are happy to announce that on Wednesday, November 20, Hanna de Vries (Utrecht University) will give a LUSH talk in (perhaps somewhat confusingly) Leiden entitled Number in morphosyntax and semantics: the case of British English group nouns. We hope to see you all there!

Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Time: 15:00 – 17:00
Location: Leiden, P.N. van Eyckhof 2, room 006


It is a well-known fact that singular group NPs in British English can occur with either a singular or a plural VP, but it has rarely been investigated whether the choice of agreement has any semantic consequences. Using the availability of quantificational distributivity as a diagnostic for semantic plurality, I show that morphologically singular group NPs in British English behave like atoms when they occur with a singular VP, but like sets when they occur with a plural VP. While most of the literature on group NPs treats them as atomic, I propose to analyse them as basically set-denoting, and I show how, under this assumption, their behaviour with different kinds of agreement follows from fairly standard assumptions about the semantics of number morphology.

Unlike previous approaches to British English group nouns (e.g. Barker 1992, Sauerland & Elbourne 2002, Sauerland 2004), the proposed analysis does not make use of language-specific semantic assumptions. Rather, the semantic facts are derived from independent morphosyntactic properties of the languages in question. In further support of this point, I will discuss some new data involving the interpretation of there-sentences in (American) English, which show similar agreement-related contrasts even when the subject is an ‘ordinary’ plural.


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