Numeral semantics

Lisa Bylinina (Leiden University, Netherlands) and Rick Nouwen (Utrecht University, Netherlands)

Words for numbers, numerals, are a special lexical class, half-way between natural and mathematical language. One would expect them to have a relatively straightforward semantics. However, during the last several decades, numerals proved to be a rich source of debate in linguistics, especially in semantics and pragmatics. The reason is that the study of numerals requires taking into account core issues such as plurality, quantification, (im)precision, polarity, implicature/exhaustivity, degree, modality and cross-linguistic variation. In this course, we provide a thorough introduction to the issues connected to numeral semantics and pragmatics, including their relevance for neighbouring fields such as philosophy and number cognition. During the course, we gradually develop analyses of meanings of numerals in natural language using a multitude of analytical tools and frameworks. We evaluate competing proposals in terms of empirical coverage and predictions. The course provides an entry point to contemporary semantics and pragmatics via numerals.