Book

Gradability in Natural Language

Heather Burnett

Published in print December 2016 | ISBN: 9780198724797
Published online January 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780191792298 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198724797.001.0001

Series: Oxford Studies in Semantics and Pragmatics

Gradability in Natural Language

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This monograph presents a new theory of the relationship between vagueness, context sensitivity, gradability, and scale structure in natural language. The book argues that particular subclasses of adjectival predicates (relative adjectives (i.e. tall), total adjectives (i.e. dry), partial adjectives (i.e. wet), and non-scalar adjectives (i.e. hexagonal)) can be distinguished through looking how their criteria of application can vary depending on context; how they display the characteristic properties of vague language; and what the properties of their associated orders (a.k.a. scales) are. It has been known for a long time that there exist empirical connections between context sensitivity, vagueness, and scale structure in the adjectival domain; however, a formal system that expresses these connections has yet to be developed. By combining insights into the relationship between context sensitivity and gradability from the Delineation semantics framework with insights into the relationship between tolerance relations and the Sorites paradox from the Tolerant, Classical, Strict non-classical framework, the book proposes such a logical system (called DelTCS). Using this framework, it is shown that the association of particular classes of adjectives with their particular kinds of scales can be derived from their context sensitivity and vagueness properties. In the second part of the book, it gives a mereological extension of DelTCS to analyze vagueness and gradability outside the adjectival domain. It is shown that there exist correspondences between the major adjectival scale structure classes and certain well-known subclasses of determiner phrases, and the book shows how these correspondences can be captured within this system.

Keywords: Vagueness; adjectives; non-classical logics; scale structure; context sensitivity; semantics; plurality; gradability

Book.  240 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Semantics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Gradability in Natural Language

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Conclusion in Gradability in Natural Language

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