Two Sources of Scalarity Within the Verb Phrase

  • M. Ryan Bochnak
Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 93)


In this paper I argue for two distinct sources of scalarity within the verb phrase, focusing specifically on VPs headed by incremental theme verbs. First, there is a quantity scale associated with the presence of an incremental theme argument. The scale structure of the quantity scale is crucially related to the part structure of the theme argument, and is the source of observed telicity effects. I argue that the quantity scale is not lexically encoded in the verb, but is derived from the part structure of the nominal argument via a functional morpheme. This morpheme is often silent in English, but in certain cases has an overt realization as partitive of. Second, there is a quality, or prototypicality, scale associated with the lexical entry of the verb itself. This type of scale is related to the different dimensions upon which events are classified by the verbs that name them. I argue that two distinct readings of the the proportional modifier half in English provide evidence for these two sources of scalarity within VP. The analysis is couched within a framework for aspectual composition that adopts the formal properties of scales and degrees that have become standard in recent work on gradable predicates.


Quantity Scale Functional Head Gradable Adjective Proportional Modifier Bare Plural 
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First and foremost, I would like to thank Chris Kennedy for detailed and thought-provoking discussions on this topic over the past months. This work has also greatly benefited from discussions with Peter Alrenga, Itamar Francez, Anastasia Giannakidou and Beth Levin, as well as audiences at the 35th Berkeley Linguistics Society Meeting, Semantics Workshop of the American Midwest and Prairies 2009 in Chicago, the University of Göttingen, SALT XX in Vancouver, and the Workshop on Subatomic Semantics of Event Predicates in Barcelona. All remaining errors and oversights are my responsibility.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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