June 27: Lisa Bylinina (Utrecht) – UiL OTS

We are happy to announce that on Thursday, June 27, Lisa Bylinina (Utrecht University) will give a LUSH talk in Utrecht entitled Purpose-relativity in degree constructions. We hope to see you all there! (Please note the slightly unusual time slot.)

Date: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Time: 15:30 – 17:30
Location: Utrecht, Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, room 1.06 (Stijlkamer)


I discuss constructions involving a positive (unmarked) gradable adjective and an infinitival clause, such as (1-2):

(1) “War and Peace” is a long book to read in one day.
(2) John is a bit tall to drive this car.

The infinitival clause overtly specifies a “purpose” or “goal” over which the standard of the gradable adjective is evaluated — the book that would be considered long to read in one day doesn’t have to be long in general, etc.

The ‘purpose-relativity’ in the interpretation of the positive form of gradable adjectives has been treated as a largely pragmatic phenomenon — the interpretational effect is derived by mechanisms of prominence of a certain (modalized) set of individuals (Fleisher 2008, 2011).

I argue against the existing ‘pragmatic’ analysis. A closer look at the mechanisms underlying the effect of the infinitival clause is much more local, structural, and compositional than it could seem on the surface.

I suggest that the infinitival clause in (1) denotes a degree and directly serves as an argument of the positive morpheme. This makes these expressions much closer to other standard-denoting expressions, quite like ‘than’-phrases in comparative constructions. I extend the analysis to cases like (2), where the gradable adjective is not in the attributive position in a DP. I show that directly applying the analysis to the attributive case won’t work, and propose a type-shifting analysis (triggered by the low degree modifier ‘a bit’). I also discuss the consequences of my analysis for the debate on the nature and existence of a silent positive morpheme.


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