Scale Closure and Telicity
May 19, 2006
Yoad Winter, Technion
University of Chicago
A fascinating aspect of telicity that has occupied semantic research
since the early works of M. Krifka, H. Verkuyl and others, is the
relations between the nominal and the verbal domains. Recent work has
also started to explore other cross-categorial aspects of telicity,
notably adjectives (Hay et al. 1999) and prepositions (Zwarts 2005).
In the talk I'll follow these works and other recent work (especially
by Amaral and Kearns), describing relations between scalar structures,
path structures and the telicity of various verb phrases.
The modifier almost is especially useful for testing such relations
between different semantic domains due to its cross-categorial nature,
combined with Dowty's (1979) observation about its ambiguity with
telic predicates vis a vis atelic predicates.
I'll claim that Dowty's observation does not always hold: some telic
prepositions do not exhibit the ambiguity expected with
almost. Using the analysis in Rotstein and Winter (2004), I'll conclude
that ambiguity of almost in verbal forms is caused by closure of
the structure it modifies, and not by telicity per se. This unified
account of almost with verbs, prepositions and adjectives is used
for generalizing Hay et al's mapping from scales to temporal
structures. Against Hay et al's claim, and in agreement with Kearns
(2005), I'll show that contextual information only affects open
structures, but not closed structures. Based on the subinterval
property of Bennett and Partee (1978), I'll provide a characteristic
of atelicity, called weak downward monotonicity. This condition
immediately accounts for the correlation between the a/telicity of
deadjectival verbs and the closure properties of scales associated
with the corresponding adjectives. It is also useful in capturing the
relationships between telicity and path structures of prepositions.
Time permitting, I'll say more about:
- Weak downward monotonicity and the so-called Sorites "paradox" with
- The controversy surrounding the "pointal" scale structure of
total adjectives like clean, healthy and straight.