Events

We show that prenominal possessors block a "relative" interpretation of superlatives crosslinguistically. That is, whereas "Ty knows the tallest friends of Mary's" can mean that Ty knows the friends of Mary's that are tallest out of all of Mary's friends OR the group of Mary's friends that Ty knows is taller than any other group, "Ty knows Mary's tallest friends" is only compatible with the former interpretation (the "absolute" reading). We argue that the relative interpretation is derived via movement of a contrast set to the left edge of the clause (Sharvit and Stateva 2002). The prenominal possessor competes for the left edge of the DP-phase, and thus Relativized Minimality forces the absolute reading. This is observed in languages without articles as well, which means that there is a left edge position that both possessors and the null contrast set compete for, and a fortiori, that there is a nominal phase in languages without articles, contra the claims made by Bošković (2008).