Proportional implies relative: A typological universal
MetadataShow full item record
CitationE Coppock, Golsa Nouri-Hosseini, Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten, Saskia Stiefeling. 2017. "Proportional implies relative: A typological universal." Proceedings of the Linguistics Society of America 2
We give evidence from a geographically, genetically, and typologically diverse set of languages (drawn from 26 different language families and every continent) for the following typological universal: Regardless of the morphosyntactic strategy used by a language to form superlatives, if superlative morphosyntax can be applied to much or many, then the result can be used to express a relative reading (as in Hillary has visited the most continents (out of everyone)) but not necessarily a proportional reading (as in Hillary has visited most of the continents). Thus, no language deploys the regular superlative of much/many for the proportional but not the relative reading. We also give a rough estimate of how rare proportional readings for quantity superlatives are: about 10%. Nevertheless, we show that proportional readings arise with a diverse set of strategies for forming superlatives, and discuss the cases of Basque, Hausa, and Georgean (the last of which is most surprising).