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Semantics - Lexical Structures and Adjectives

Ed. by Maienborn, Claudia / Heusinger, Klaus von / Portner, Paul

Series:Mouton Reader

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Publication Date:
February 2019
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12. Adjectives

Demonte, Violeta


This chapter focuses on the main characteristics of the semantic category adjective. It presents basic classifications of adjectives in formal semantics and current lines of debate regarding classes of adjectives and their semantic analysis. In section 1 the standard definition of adjectives as predicates, functions from entities to truth values (type < e,t >), is introduced. Section 2 addresses the morphosyntactic and semantic properties characterising adjectives: they are modifiers, they are gradable, and show independence of the object. In section 3 the distinction between predicative and attributive adjectives is established and qualified in terms of syntactic position, semantic type (S/N vs. CN/CN) and rules for interpretation (predicate conjunction vs. function analysis). The distinction intersective / non-intersective adjective is explained. Section 4 provides a new analysis of the semantics of adjectives in terms of scales, degrees, standards/ norms and boundedness. Adjectives are taken to be type < e,d > and they can be relative or absolute. Relative adjectives have an extension that depends on a standard and a comparison class, they give rise to vagueness. Absolute adjectives do not depend on an external norm, they have closed scales which can be lower closed or upper closed. Colour and relational adjectives as well as non-gradable modal and frequency adjectives are finally described.

Citation Information

Violeta Demonte (2019). 12. Adjectives. In Claudia Maienborn, Klaus von Heusinger, Paul Portner (Eds.), Semantics - Lexical Structures and Adjectives (pp. 381–414). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110626391-012

Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110626391

Online ISBN: 9783110626391

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/BostonGet Permission

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