Numerals denote degree quantifiers: Evidence from child language

Christopher Kennedy and Kristen Syrett

A large body of work in both the theoretical and experimental literature suggests that upper bound implications in simple sentences with bare numerals are entailments arising from the semantics of the numeral, rather than implicatures of the sort associ- ated with other scalar terms. However, not all semantic analyses of numerals make the same predictions about upper bound implications in all contexts. In particular, in sen- tences in which numerals are embedded under existential root modals, only a semantic analysis of numerals as maximizing degree quantifiers derives upper bound implications as entailments; other analyses must derive upper bound implications as implicatures. In this paper, we provide an argument for the degree quantifier analysis by demonstrating that young children interpret such sentences as imposing upper bounds at an age at which they do not reliably calculate scalar implicatures.