Plurality effects with embedded questions and exhaustive readings

Alexandre Cremers (ENS)


Questions are known to behave like plural nouns. Most famously, Berman (1991) showed that embedded questions can be modified by adverbs of quantity such as 'mostly' or 'in part' (quantificational variability effect). They also give rise to so-called semi-distributive readings (Lahiri, 2002), and homogeneity effects (observed but never implemented). Recently, it has also been shown that questions embedded under verbs like 'know' are ambiguous between weak, strong and intermediate readings. This ambiguity is usually seen as an orthogonal issue, and most recent literature on the various levels of exhaustivity completely ignores plurality effects. Here I show how an updated version of Lahiri's (2002) proposal can be combined with ideas from Klinedinst & Rothschild (2011) to yield a theory of strong and intermediate readings compatible with recent theories of plurality effects of definite plurals (e.g., homogeneity, cumulative readings). Along the way, we will discuss a few puzzles such as mention-some questions, emotive-factive verbs ('surprise') and the reason why 'believe' does not (usually) embed questions.