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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 2002, Vol. 33, No. 3, Pages 493-505
(doi: 10.1162/002438902760168581)
© 2002 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Atoms and Sets: A Characterization of Semantic Number
Article PDF (156.75 KB)

This article analyzes the interactionsof semantic number, morphological number, and quantification. It argues that the traditional typology of distributive and collective predicates is unsuitable for a truth-conditional theory of plurality. A new test is proposed for classifying the semantic number of predicates according to their behavior with singular/plural quantificational noun phrases such as every/all student(s) and no teacher(s). Predicates that are (in)sensitive to such number variations are called atom/set predicates, respectively, and it is shown that this distinction cuts across the traditional distributive/collective typology. The processes that govern the semantic number of sentences are reanalyzed in these terms.