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  • Agreement Mismatch in Partitive Relatives
  • Nicholas Longenbaugh

1 The Phenomenon

Relative clauses (RCs) at the right edge of partitive DPs tolerate a curious variability in agreement possibilities when the partitive is headed by one.1 I refer to the apparently anomalous singular agreement as agreement mismatch in partitive relatives (AMPR).2

(1)

a. Paula is one of the few linguists who understands/understand On Raising.

b. John is one of the only linguists who is/are giving a talk.

c. I met one of the many linguists who likes/like Aspects yesterday.

I adopt the view that partitive DPs have a silent head noun that is (optionally) elided under identity with the post-prepositional NP (see, e.g., Jackendoff 1977, Cardinaletti and Giusti 1992, Zamparelli 1995, Sauerland 2004), and hereafter I will refer to the elided NP in (2) as the partitive-head NP, and the post-prepositional NP in (2) as the domain NP. In bracketed representations, I will indicate the partitive-head NP with superscript I and the domain NP with superscript II.3 [End Page 847]

(2) one booki [of these booksii]]

Given (2), the chief interest of AMPR is that singular agreement in the RC is possible even when it modifies the plural domain NP. The structure I propose for AMPR is therefore as in (3).

(3)

The essential challenge of AMPR is thus to understand why the RC-internal agreement can be singular when the overt head NP is plural, given that agreement mismatch of this sort is not usually tolerated. The remainder of this section is devoted to defending (3).

The main conceivable alternative to (3) has the agreement-mismatched RC modifying the partitive-head NP ([np book of these books] in (2)) rather than the domain NP, as in (4).4

(4) one [[NPi [of the NPii]] RC]

With this in mind, there are two arguments in favor of (3) and against (4). The first is that the denotation of the RC is included in the presupposition of a definite domain DP (see (6)). This is predicted if the RC attaches to the domain NP but not if it attaches to the head NP.

(5)

(6)

a. Sally is one of the few mathematicians who respects set theory.

≫ Few mathematicians respect set theory.

b. Bobby is one of the players who was fired last year.

≫ A plurality of players were fired last year.

The second argument in favor of (3) and against (4) hinges on the fact that unmodified definite domain DPs are awkward in out-ofthe-blue contexts (see (7a); Solt 2014). Adding a modifier to the domain NP, as in (7b), resolves the awkwardness, presumably by making the presupposition introduced by the definite article more specific and hence easier to accommodate. The argument is then that agreement-mismatched [End Page 848] RCs have the same amelioration effect (see (7c)), suggesting that they too modify the domain NP.5

(7)

a. #Sally is one of the few mathematicians.

b. Sally is one of the few (smart/tall/…) mathematicians (in the class).

c. Sally is one of the few mathematicians who respects set theory.

Crucially, attaching a modifier to the partitive-head NP does not resolve the awkwardness of an unrestricted definite domain DP (see (8a–b), where the modifier attaches to the partitive-head NP, and (8c), where the modifier attaches to the domain NP).

(8)

a. #Mary is one student who was invited of the few students.

b. #Mary is one smart/tall … student of the few students.

c. Mary is one student of [the few [students who were invited to the party]].

The amelioration effect in (7c) therefore must involve modification of the domain NP.6 Because of the oddity of having two overt NPs in a partitive, I have elided the domain NP in (8).7 I conclude that AMPR involves the structure in (3). This squib presents and defends an analysis of this phenomenon.

2 Proposal

In this section, I propose that AMPR involves a matching RC where the RC-internal head noun takes the (silent) head NP of the partitive as its antecedent, rather than the plural RC-external head. The optionality of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9150
Print ISSN
0024-3892
Pages
pp. 847-861
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-21
Open Access
No
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