Not 'Nearly' Synonymous. Similarities and Differences between 'almost' and 'nearly'

  • Lucia Pozzan
  • Susan Schweitzer


In this paper we look at the difference in distribution and meaning between almost and nearly. Nearly has to do with expectations and is in general uneasy as a modifier of negative quantifiers, while it is grammatical in the scope of negation. On the other hand, almost is at best marginal in the scope of negation (unless an echo context is provided) and in combination with the NPI any. We propose that, when nearly is in the scope of negation, it loses its scalar component and its literal meaning of physical proximity can be accessed by negation and modified by it. This accounts for the particular interpretation of nearly under negation. To account for the contextual expectations raised by nearly, we suggest that the operator EVEN is instantiated by the presence of nearly and that EVEN does not interfere with the alternatives made salient by scalar operators like almost and nearly (contra Penka, 2005). We then propose an alternative explanation for the ungrammaticality of the combination between almost- NPI any and the acceptability of nearly-NPI any.
How to Cite
Pozzan, L., & Schweitzer, S. (2019). Not ’Nearly’ Synonymous. Similarities and Differences between ’almost’ and ’nearly’. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 12, 485-507.