Are 'most' and 'more than half' truth-conditionally equivalent?
Milica Denić, Jakub Szymanik
October 2021

Quantifying determiners 'most' and 'more than half' are standardly assumed to have the same truth-conditional meaning. Much work builds on this assumption in studying how the two quantifiers are mentally encoded and processed (Hackl, 2009; Pietroski et al., 2009; Szymanik and Zajenkowski, 2010; Lidz et al., 2011; Steinert-Threlkeld et al., 2015; Talmina et al., 2017). There is however empirical evidence that 'most' is sometimes interpreted as 'significantly more than half' (Ariel, 2003, 2004; Solt, 2011, 2016; Ramotowska et al., 2020). Is this difference between 'most' and 'more than half' a consequence of pragmatic strengthening of 'most', or is the standard assumption that the two quantifiers are truth-conditionally equivalent wrong? We report two experiments which demonstrate that 'most' preserves the 'significantly more than half' interpretation in downward-entailing environments, which speaks against the pragmatic strengthening option and in favor of there being a difference between the two quantifiers at the level of truth conditions.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005570
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Journal of Semantics
keywords: quantification, implicatures, experimental semantics, most, more than half, semantics
previous versions: v1 [November 2020]
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