Deriving the Scalar Structure of Deverbal Adjectives

Christopher Kennedy and Louise McNally

Focusing on the case of deverbal gradable adjectives such as acquainted, we show that the selective behavior of degree modifiers such as very and well provides an important probe on the semantic typology of adjectives. Specifically, we demonstrate that the distribution of degree modifiers is closely tied to the scalar structure of the adjectives they modify, and that scale structure also determines one of the core semantic properties of gradable adjectives: the nature of the ``standard values'' according to which sentences involving adjectival predications are judged to be true. In addition, we show that in the case of deverbal gradable adjectives, scalar structure can be inferred from the aspectual properties of the source verbs, providing a basis for predicting which degree modifiers will be acceptable with which participles.