Proportional implies relative: a typological universal
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Citation (published version)Elizabeth Coppock, Elizabeth Bogal-Allbritten, Golsa Nouri-Hosseini, Saskia Stiefeling. 2017. "Proportional implies relative: A typological universal." Linguistic Society of America. 2017-01-05 - 2017-01-08.
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.