Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 169–190 | Cite as

Scales and comparison classes

  • Alan Clinton BaleEmail author


This paper discusses comparison classes—sets that relativize the interpretation of gradable adjectives, often specified with for-clauses as in John is smart for a linguist. Such a discussion ultimately lends support to the thesis that scales, degrees, measure functions, and linear orders are grammatically derived from more basic relations between individuals. Three accounts of comparison classes are compared and evaluated. The first proposes that such classes serve as an argument to a function that determines a standard of comparison. The second maintains that these classes restrict the domain of a measure function used to map entities to degrees. The third proposes that these classes limit the kind of individuals that participate in a binary relation; this relation is then used in the construction of a scale and a measure function. It is this third account that is most consistent with the empirical data. It can explain how comparison classes fix a standard of comparison, induce presuppositions concerning the comparative subjects, and induce incommensurability in comparative constructions.


Comparison classes Scales Gradable adjectives Linear order Quasi-order 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Linguistics Program, Concordia UniversityW. MontreálCanada

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