Putting plural definites into context


  • Petra Augurzky
  • Marion Bonnet
  • Richard Breheny
  • Alexandre Cremers
  • Cornelia Ebert
  • Clemens Mayr
  • Jacopo Romoli
  • Markus Steinbach
  • Yasutada Sudo




Theories of plural definites differ with respect to ‘non-maximal readings’ of plural definites in positive and negative sentences. The implicature approach predicts an inherent asymmetry where plural definites allow for non-maximal readings in positive sentences but not in negative ones. The non-implicature approach makes symmetric predictions that non-maximal readings should be available to the same degree in positive and negative sentences. Previous experimental work found evidence for an asymmetry between positive and negative cases, but since they did not control for potential contextual effects, it remains to be a possibility that positive and negative sentences were judged against different implicit contexts that had different effects on the availability of non-maximal readings. In this paper, we report on two experiments using a picture-sentence verification task, testing the effect of context on the non-maximal readings of plural definites in positive and negative sentences. We tested sentences containing the plural definite ‘his/her presents’ under a positive quantifier ‘every boy/girl’ and two negative quantifiers ‘no boy/girl’ and ‘not every boy/girl,’ manipulating what was relevant in the context. Our results indicate that while non-maximal readings under all three quantifiers are modulated by context, the effect size is smaller for no than for the other two quantifiers. We argue that these findings pose challenges for both types of theories, and discuss possible amendments of each approach in order to account for our findings.




How to Cite

Augurzky, P., Bonnet, M., Breheny, R., Cremers, A., Ebert, C., Mayr, C., … Sudo, Y. (2023). Putting plural definites into context. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 27, 19–32. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2023.v27.1050

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