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An Interstitial New Meaning of ‘Multiple’

In an earlier post (April 16, 2013), the contemporary substitution of multiple for many was attributed to iconicity. However, on second thought, there is an alternate explanation.

Multiple may have arisen as a designator of number because it is non-committal as to whether it means ‘many’ or ‘several’. This new meaning––something between the two––evidently fits a semantic niche that speakers and writers wish to exploit when neither many nor several fills the bill. This new connotation of multiple is: ‘not as few in number as several and not as great as many’.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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