For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Cumulativity (linguistics).

Cumulativity (linguistics)

This article may be too technical for most readers to understand. Please help improve it to make it understandable to non-experts, without removing the technical details. (September 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
This article includes a list of references, related reading, or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Please help improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (September 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

In linguistic semantics, an expression X is said to have cumulative reference if and only if the following holds: If X is true of both of a and b, then it is also true of the combination of a and b. Example: If two separate entities can be said to be "water", then combining them into one entity will yield more "water". If two separate entities can be said to be "a house", their combination cannot be said to be "a house". Hence, "water" has cumulative reference, while the expression "a house" does not. The plural form "houses", however, does have cumulative reference. If two (groups of) entities are both "houses", then their combination will still be "houses".

Cumulativity has proven relevant to the linguistic treatment of the mass/count distinction and for the characterization of grammatical telicity.

Formally, a cumulative predicate CUM can be defined as follows, where capital X is a variable over sets, U is the universe of discourse, p is a mereological part structure on U, and is the mereological sum operation.

In later work, Krifka has generalized the notion to n-ary predicates, based on the phenomenon of cumulative quantification. For example, the two following sentences appear to be equivalent:

John ate an apple and Mary ate a pear.
John and Mary ate an apple and a pear.

This shows that the relation "eat" is cumulative. In general, an n-ary predicate R is cumulative if and only if the following holds:


Krifka, Manfred (1989). "Nominal reference, temporal constitution and quantification in event semantics". In Renate Bartsch, Johan van Benthem and Peter van Emde Boas (eds.), Semantics and Contextual Expressions 75–115. Dordrecht: Foris.

Krifka, Manfred. 1999. "At least some determiners aren’t determiners". In The semantics/pragmatics interface from different points of view, ed. K. Turner, 257–291. North-Holland: Elsevier Science.

Scha, Remko. 1981. "Distributive, collective, and cumulative quantification". In Formal methods in the study of language, ed. T. Janssen and M. Stokhof, 483–512. Amsterdam: Mathematical Centre Tracts.

{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Cumulativity (linguistics)
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?