Exploring the relation between the qualitative and quantitative uses of the determiner some

Patrick J. Duffley*, Pierre Larrivée

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article attempts to repair the neglect of the qualitative uses of some and to suggest an explanation which could cover the full range of usage with this determiner - both quantitative and qualitative - showing how a single underlying meaning, modulated by contextual and pragmatic factors, can give rise to the wide variety of messages expressed by some in actual usage. Both the treatment of some as an existential quantifier and the scalar model which views some as evoking a less-than-expected quantity on a pragmatic scale are shown to be incapable of handling the qualitative uses of this determiner. An original analysis of some and the interaction of its meaning with the defining features of the qualitative uses is proposed, extending the discussion as well to the role of focus and the adverbial modifier quite. The crucial semantic feature of some for the explanation of its capacity to express qualitative readings is argued to be non-identification of a referent assumed to be particular. Under the appropriate conditions, this notion can give rise to qualitative denigration (implying it is not even worth the bother to identify the referent) or qualitative appreciation (implying the referent to be so outstanding that it defies identification). The explanation put forward is also shown to cover some's use as an approximator, thereby enhancing its plausibility even further.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)131-149
    Number of pages19
    JournalEnglish Language and Linguistics
    Issue number1
    Early online date17 Feb 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


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