LINGUIST List 32.3303

Wed Oct 20 2021

Confs: General Linguistics, Linguistic Theories, Semantics/Romania

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 15-Oct-2021
From: Lucia Tovena <>
Subject: Superlatives and Definiteness
E-mail this message to a friend

Superlatives and Definiteness
Short Title: SuperDef

Date: 24-Aug-2022 - 27-Aug-2022
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Contact: Ion Giurgea
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Call Deadline: 15-Nov-2021

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Semantics

Meeting Description:

The use of the definite articles with ‘relative’ superlatives is a much studied but still unsettled issue in formal linguistics (Szabolcsi 1986, Heim 1999, Farkas & É. Kiss 2000, Sharvit & Stateva 2002, Schwarz 2005, Krasikova 2012, Pancheva & Tomaszewicz 2012, Coppock & Beaver 2014). Other—less addressed—issues concerning the interaction between superlatives and definiteness are:
i) the construction of the superlative meanings by combining definiteness marking and a comparative form. Romance languages, Albanian, Modern Greek, some Austrian German varieties, Maltese, Neo-Aramaic, Livonian do not have a dedicated morphological marker for the superlative (no counterpart of the English -est or most) but instead convey superlative meanings by using comparative markers associated with definiteness (see Bobaljik 2012:52). For Romance languages, it has been shown that this morphological uniformity corresponds to quite different syntactic configurations, depending on whether the definite article is part of a superlative constituent as in French postnominal superlatives and in Romanian (Croitor & Giurgea 2016, Dobrovie-Sorin & Giurgea 2021), or realizes the determiner of the overall nominal projection, as in Ibero-Romance and Italian (Loccioni 2018). On the semantic side, attempts have been made of building superlative meanings based on comparatives (see Dunbar & Wellwood 2016) but definiteness plays no part in them.
ii) the restriction on the use of indefinite determiners with superlatives. Such uses are only found in absolute superlatives which involve separate orderings in each group of a plurality, e.g. This class has a best student (Herdan & Sharvit 2006).
iii) the semantics of predicative superlatives. Recently, it has been noticed that predicative superlatives show interesting properties in languages that mark superlatives by combining comparatives and definites (Loccioni 2018, 2019, Croitor & Giurgea 2016).

Call for Papers:

We invite submissions of preliminary abstracts of max 300 words that address topics in the meeting description or related questions. Please send your non-anonymous contributions to by 15 Nov 2021.

If the workshop proposal is accepted, all preliminary workshop participants will be invited to submit the full versions of their abstracts (max 500 words excluding references) to the SLE organizing committee via Easychair before January 15, 2022.

We encourage contributions on these unsettled or understudied topics, particularly on the comparative syntax of superlatives and the syntax-semantics interface. Themes include:

1. Crosslinguistic variation
a. independent crosslinguistic differences that would correlate with the difference regarding the distribution of the definite article in superlatives
b. the situation in languages other than Romance that use definite article plus comparatives (e.g. Arabic or Albanian)

2. Differences between adnominal and predicative superlatives

3. Modal superlatives (see Schwarz 2005, Romero 2013, Loccioni 2019)
a. syntax and semantic composition
b. adnominal vs predicate position

4. Compositional semantics
a. the semantics of superlatives in languages where the definite article is a ‘superlative marker’ directly attached to the adjective in the comparative
b. the semantics of superlatives in languages where the definite article is the determiner of the nominal projection rather than a ‘superlative marker’. Do we need to postulate a null counterpart of the superlative marker that surfaces as a definite in Romanian and French?
c. the semantics of adnominal vs predicative superlatives

Page Updated: 20-Oct-2021