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Progressive aspect and distributively quantified objects : a semantic/pragmatic account Jones, Susan Joanne

Abstract

This thesis is concerned with progressivize verbs that take distributively quantifying objects. Sentences like (1) are typically judged to be odd or incoherent: (1) ?Charlotte was eating every cookie. However, in the special discourse context of (2), the sentence is coherent. In this context, it is true to say that at a reference time, Charlotte is simultaneously eating every cookie in the quantified set: (2) a. Context: Charlotte was eating all the cookies by taking one bite from each cookie in turn; b. Charlotte was eating every cookie. Distributive determiners require the predicate to apply to each member of the QP's restrictor set individually, rather than to the set as a whole. One of the basic assumptions about progressives is that they describe events that are not yet completed at the reference time. My hypothesis is that use of the progressive in (1a-b) creates a context where the distributive property of "every" cannot be met. The lack of entailment from progressive to perfective displayed by progressive accomplishments presents a problem when there os a distributively quantifying object. This is shown in (1), where the more expected context is the one in which Charlotte eat up each cookie sequentially. The problem created by interpreting (1) in the sequential context is that if the event does not complete, it means that Charlotte does not eat every cookie. Consequently, the predicate will not apply to every single cookie in the quantified set, and "every"'s property of distributivity is not satisfied. My analysis makes use of Tunstall's (1998) treatment of the preference of distributively quantified phrases for wide scope: she proposed that distributive determiners require distribution of events, such that every member of the restrictor set is associated with the predicate in its own distinct subevent. Distributive QPs take wide scope when necessary, in order to meet this requirement. (1) must be interpreted in the context of (2), where every has scope over the progressive operator, and I assume that this context is required because, given Tunstall's analysis of distributivity, for each cookie, a different in-progress subevent is found. It follows from this that the predicate applies to every single cookie. The context in (2) is therefore required because it satisfies the distributive property of "every", while the more expected sequential context does not.

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