'Few', 'A Few', and 'Only' Noun Phrases, Non-Monotonic Quantifiers, and Negative Polarity Items

Jay Atlas, Pomona


My search, since 1997, for another non-monotonic, NPI licensing, quantified Noun Phrase, is completed. Contrary to almost all semanticists' expectations, despite the ultimately misleading hints from Sommers (1982) and Geach (1980), it turns out that the non-monotonic quantifier is 'Few N'. My analysis [...] explains the relationship between 'Few N' and 'A few N', predicts the relevant entailments and conversational implicata of 'Few N' statements, and though 'Few N' is a non-monotonic quantifier, my analysis makes it compatible with Horn's (2002, 2009) current pragmatic theory of the licensing of Negative Polarity Items. It also puts 'Few N' into the same semantic class as the "excluding" quantifier 'Only Proper Name'. At first glance this will surprise most semanticists, but on reflection I believe that they will see the merit of that classification.