Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 33–70 | Cite as

Polar Opposition and the Ontology of ‘Degrees’

  • Christopher Kennedy


This paper uses the distribution and interpretation of antonymous adjectives in comparative constructions as an empirical basis to argue that abstract representations of measurement, or ‘degrees’, must be modeled as intervals on a scale, rather than as points, as commonly assumed. I begin by demonstrating that the facts in this domain must be accounted for in terms of the interaction of the semantics of adjectival polarity and the semantics of the comparative, rather than principles governing the (overt) expression of particular types of adjectives in comparatives. I then show that a principled account of the full range of data under consideration can be constructed within a model in which degrees are formalized as intervals on a scale and adjectival polarity is characterized in terms of two structurally distinct and complementary sorts of `positive' and `negative' degrees.

antonymy comparatives degrees gradable adjectives polarity 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Kennedy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonU.S.A.

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