December 13: Galit W. Sassoon (Bar Ilan University) – UiL OTS

We are happy to announce that on Friday, December 13, Galit W. Sassoon (Bar Ilan University) will give a LUSH talk in Utrecht entitled “A new look at adjectival positive forms – Evidence from quantificational modifiers”. We hope to see you all there! (Note the somewhat unusual day/time.)

Date: Friday, December 13, 2013
Time: 14:00 – 16:00
Location: Utrecht, Trans 8, room 0.19

Abstract
This talk focuses on the use of existential and universal degree modifiers M (such as slightly, a bit, in some respect, vs. completely, totally, perfectly, in every respect, respectively) within a sentence structure ‘x is M P’ where P is a dimensional (wet, dry, full, empty) or multidimensional adjective (dirty, clean, healthy and sick). On the proposed view, the positive forms of gradable adjectives involve two types of parameters: (i) a variable n representing the number of adjectival dimensions whose norm entities have to exceed for the adjective to apply to them, and (ii) a variable c representing the membership norm of each dimension of the adjective. Both variables may, as a default, be implicitly bound. Thus, ‘x is P’ translates to ‘In n many (some/most//all) respects F of P, x is F to c many (some/most//all) degrees d of F’. Both variables may also be explicitly bound. On this view, quantifying modifiers can explicitly set the number c of degrees (as in perfectly empty) or number n of dimensions, as in perfectly {healthy, safe, identical}, where experimental evidence suggests that perfectly is used to convey ‘P in every respect’ (Sassoon 2013).
In terms of distribution, quantificational modifiers appear to select adjectives which interpretation involves implicit quantification of the same force; e.g., dirty is often viewed as meaning slightly/ somewhat dirty, and healthy is thought to mean completely/ perfectly healthy. In attempt to explain the contribution of the modifiers, existing accounts assume that universal modifiers trigger interpretations at a high precision level (Kennedy 2007; Syrett, Kennedy & Lidz 2009). Sassoon & Zevakhina (2012) show that these accounts do not directly extend to existential modifiers. They propose a new account in terms of granularity shifting. It will be shown that this account can apply in an analogous fashion to the scales serving for the assignment of values for either c, or n.
The new view of adjective interpretation will be motivated on independent grounds, as well. It will be shown that it captures readings of various comparison constructions, and reveals a precondition for the licensing of nouns in gradable constructions (Sassoon 2014). In addition, following van Rooij (2011), the analysis can be formulated in terms of semi orders instead of degrees. Besides being more economic, such a formulation seems to result in more precise interpretations for quantificational modifiers.

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