Characterizing superlative quantifiers
The present paper develops a semantic analysis of superlative descriptions as a subclass of definite DPs: the definite determiner in superlatives (and not the superlative itself) is analyzed as the locus of the contextual restrictions. Evidence from presuppositions and from different dependent readings of superlatives supports the parallel between superlatives and definites. I also show that a distinction should be drawn between two types of contextual restriction: the context set of the definite and the frame of comparison of the superlative. The paper further discusses the role of focus in the comparative reading of superlatives in an array of constructions such as existential sentences and focused quantifiers such as everybody, several X and many X. Finally, I show that the hypotheses introduced are sufficient to explain the much debated “upstairs de dicto” reading (Heim 1999).