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Restriction and Obviation in Scalar Expressions: the semantics and pragmatics of range markers across and throughout languages (ROSE)
Start date: Mar 1, 2013, End date: Feb 28, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Most languages have a fairly well developed system of words for numbers, called numerals. It is cross-linguistically common, moreover, for languages to have a very rich paradigm of modifiers of such numerals. For instance, English allows the numeral ""fifty"" to be modified by comparatives (""more than 50""), (adverbial) superlatives (""at least 50""), equatives (""as many as 50""), locative prepositions (""over 50""), directional prepositions (""up to 50""), disjunctions (""50 or more"") and adverbs (""exactly 50""). As illustrated by the set of English modifiers, typically, such paradigms do not consist of specialised vocabulary but instead consist of expressions 'borrowed' from other areas of the grammar. This project sets out to use the rich vocabulary of modified numerals to make advances in semantics and pragmatics. In particular, we will look at a subset of modifiers that have restrictions on their use, restrictions that may be obviated in specific contexts. This subset contains e.g. adverbial superlatives and directional prepositions. Accordingly, there is a semantic connection between superlativity and spatial expression that needs to be explored. More importantly, however, the found connections will clarify the nature of numerical, and more generally scalar, quantification. This is very welcome, since there is a surprising lack of insight in how we use numerical expressions to communicate quantitative information. In particular, there is no consensus as to what semantic and pragmatic processes govern the relatively simple meanings conveyed by sentences containing numerals and similarly scalar expressions. What is needed right now to break through this standstill are projects that aim at uncovering hitherto unexplored connections within language. Significant theoretical progress moreover relies on access to large bodies of new and reliable data. To this end, the project includes in-depth cross-linguistic and experimental studies."
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