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Completely Bare Swedish Superlatives

Conference paper
Authors Elizabeth Coppock
Christian Josefson
Published in Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung, 19. 19th annual meeting of the German Semantics Society, Göttingen, September 15 to 17, 2014. Eva Csipak & Hedde Zeijlstra (eds.)
Pages 179-196
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 179-196
Language en
Subject categories General Language Studies and Linguistics, Swedish language


This paper shows that Swedish differs from both German and English with respect to the distribution and interpretation of definiteness-marking on superlatives: Bare degree and amount superlatives unambiguously receive a relative interpretation, definite-marked amount superlatives are unambiguously ‘proportional’ (although they do not always carry a ‘more than half’ interpretation), and definite-marked degree superlatives can have an absolute or a relative reading. We show that an analysis based on movement of the superlative morpheme accounts well for the Swedish pattern but does not provide the tools for a cross-linguistically valid framework, failing in particular to account well for relative readings in conjunction with definiteness-marking. We therefore propose an alternative, non-movement approach building on a very recent treatment of the superlative morpheme, giving it access to a contrast set and an association relation. The crucial difference between Swedish on the one hand and English and German on the other hand is proposed to lie in whether the association relation is saturated through semantic composition or by context.

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