Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 567–609 | Cite as

Adjectival extremeness: degree modification and contextually restricted scales

Article

Abstract

This paper argues that degree modifiers such as flat-out, downright, positively, and straight-up constitute a distinct natural class specialized for modifying extreme adjectives (such as gigantic, fantastic, or gorgeous), and that extreme adjectives themselves come in two varieties: ones that encode extremeness as part of their lexical semantics and ones that can acquire it on the basis of contextual factors. These facts suggest that a theory is required of what it means for an adjective to be ‘extreme’ in the relevant sense. I propose one, based on the idea that in any given context, we restrict our attention to a particular salient portion of a scale. To reflect this, I suggest that quantification over degrees is—like quantification in other domains—contextually restricted. Extreme adjectives and corresponding degree modifiers can thus both be understood as a means of signaling that a degree lies outside a contextually-provided range.

Keywords

Extreme adjectives Degree modifiers Gradability Domain restrictions Context sensitivity Scale structure 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of Linguistics and LanguagesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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