A Delineation solution to the puzzles of absolute adjectives

Abstract

The paper presents both new data and a new analysis of the semantic and pragmatic properties of the class of absolute scalar adjectives (ex. dry, wet, straight, bent, flat, empty, full…) within an extension of a well-known logical framework for the analysis of gradable predicates: the delineation semantics framework (DelS) (see Klein, Linguist Philos 4:1–45, 1980; van Benthem, Pac Philos Q 63:193–203, 1982; van Rooij, J Semant 28:335–358, 2011b, among many others). It has been long observed that the context-sensitivity, vagueness and gradability features of absolute scalar predicates give rise to certain puzzles for their analysis within most, if not all, modern formal semantic frameworks. While there exist proposals for solving these puzzles within other major frameworks (such as the degree semantics framework), it has been argued that some of their aspects are particularly challenging for the analysis of absolute scalar predicates within the delineation approach. By combining insights into the relationship between context-sensitivity and scalarity from the DelS framework with insights into the relationship between tolerance/similarity relations and the Sorites paradox from Cobreros et al.’s (2012) Tolerant, Classical, Strict (TCS) framework, I propose a new logical system, called Delineation TCS (DelTCS), in which to set analyses of four classes of adjectival predicates. I argue that this new framework allows for an analysis of absolute scalar adjectives that answers these challenges for delineation-based frameworks, while still preserving the heart of the Klein-ian approach.

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Correspondence to Heather Burnett.

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Burnett, H. A Delineation solution to the puzzles of absolute adjectives. Linguist and Philos 37, 1–39 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-014-9145-9

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Keywords

  • Semantics
  • Pragmatics
  • Scale structure
  • Vagueness
  • Natural logic
  • Context-sensitivity
  • Imprecision
  • Adjectives