Plurality and cross-linguistic variation: An experimental investigation of the Turkish plural

Agata Renans, Yağmur Sağ, F Nihan Ketrez, Lyn Tieu, George Tsoulas, Folli Raffaella, Hana de Vries, Jacopo Romoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In English and many other languages, the interpretation of the plural is associated with an ‘exclusive’ reading in positive sentences and an ‘inclusive’reading in negative ones. For example, the plural noun “tulips” in a sentence such as “Chicken planted tulips” suggests that Chicken planted more than one tulip (i.e.,a reading which ‘excludes’ atomic individual tulips). At the same time, however,the corresponding negative sentence “Chicken didn’t plant tulips” doesn’t merely convey that he didn’t plant more than one tulip, but rather that he didn’t plant any tulip (i.e., ‘including’ atomic individual tulips; Krifka 1989, Sauerland et al. 2005,among others). Different approaches to the meaning contribution of the English plural vary in how they account for this alternation across the polarities, but converge on assuming that (at least one of) the denotation(s) of the plural should include atomic individuals. Turkish, on the other hand, is often cited as one of the few known languages in which the plural only receives an exclusive interpretation(Bale et al. 2010, Bale & Khanjian 2014, Görgülü 2012). More recent proposals have,however, argued that the Turkish plural should in fact be analysed more like the English plural (Kan 2010, Sag 2018, 2019). We report two experiments investigating Turkish-speaking adults’ and preschool-aged children’s interpretation of positive and negative sentences containing plural nouns. The results provide clear evidence for inclusive interpretations of the plural in Turkish, supporting accounts that treat the Turkish and English plurals alike. We briefly discuss how an inclusive meaning of the Turkish plural can be integrated within a theory of the Turkish number system, which includes some idiosyncratic properties of the singular and the agreement between number and numerals, building on recent proposals by Sag (2018, 2019) and Martí (2020b).
Original languageEnglish
JournalNatural Language Semantics
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Apr 2020

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