Collective predicate

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In semantics, a collective predicate is a predicate that applies to a plurality of things as a whole and not to each of the individual members.


The contrast in the examples shows that gather is a collective predicate because it can only be used as a predicate with a subject that refers to a plurality.

   a * John/A boy/Every boy gathered
   b   The boys/John and Mary/The club gathered

Other predicates, such as buy a house or carry the piano upstairs can be used as collective predicates but also as distributive predicates. John and Mary bought a house is therefore ambiguous between a collective reading (they bought the house together) and a distributive reading (they each bought a house).


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


Link, G. 1983. The logical analysis of plurals and mass terms: a lattice-theoretical approach. In Meaning, use and interpretation of language. Bauerle, R. & Schwarze, C. & von Stechow, A. (eds.), 302-323. Berlin: De Gruyter.