Department of Linguistics
University of Chicago
Gradable Adjectives Denote Measure Functions, Not Partial Functions
This paper uses the distribution and interpretation of antonymous adjectives in comparative constructions to argue that an empirically and explanatorily adequate semantics for gradable adjectives must introduce abstract representations of measurement -- `scales' and `degrees' -- into the ontology. I begin with an overview of the basic assumptions of analyses that do not make reference to scales and degrees. I then turn to a discussion of the empirical data, and I demonstrate that such approaches do not support a principled explanation of the facts, but a degree-based account does.