Publication Date

Spring 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Linguistics and Language Development


Julia Swan

Subject Areas

Linguistics, Language


Adnominal quantifiers have been a source of contention in existing research, owing to their unique distributional patterns that do not match those of adjectives or determiners. Traditional accounts have typically focused on one aspect of quantifier behavior without looking at the group as a whole, and existing theories are disparate and inconsistent. This study tackles the problem of quantifier variation from a diachronic, usage-based, constructionist perspective. The goal of this paper is to identify patterns of change that can explain the variation exhibited by quantifiers today, focused on whether they are best classified as adjectives, determiners, or both; why every cannot be a pronoun; and what separates quantifiers that occur in atypical positions—predeterminer, postnominal, and postposed—from those that do not. Data have been collected from the Paston Letters for the Middle English (ME) period and the British National Corpus for Present-Day English (PDE) and analyzed for frequency patterns either alone or with other nominal dependents. This paper concludes that relative quantifiers function as determiners prenominally while absolute quantifiers function as grounding adjectives. The inability for every to occur pronominally follows from its development of a collective meaning to distinguish it from each. Thepredeterminer use of all and both has been reanalyzed as a subtype of the partitive, allowing them to retain this position. Finally, the postnominal and postposed positions are functional slots for focus marking, where all and both project contrastive focus as a result of their being maximal and each as a result of its being distributive.