April 5: Heather Burnett: “The Logical Foundations of Adjectival Scale Structure”

The workshop is delighted to welcome Heather Burnett (Institut Jean-Nicod, ENS, Paris & Université de Montréal) for a talk this Friday entitled “The Logical Foundations of Adjectival Scale Structure”, an abstract for which is below. The workshop will meet this quarter in Wieboldt 111 at the usual time (11.30am-1.30pm on Fridays). Take a look at our provisional Spring Quarter schedule.

The Logical Foundations of Adjectival Scale Structure

Abstract: In this presentation, I present a new theory of the relationship between context-sensitivity, vagueness, and adjectival scale structure. From an empirical point of view, I argue that the four principle subclasses of adjectival predicates (relative adjectives (ex. tall), total absolute adjectives (ex. dry), partial absolute adjectives (ex. wet), and non-scalar adjectives (ex. atomic)) can be distinguished along three dimensions: 1) how their criteria of application can vary depending on context; 2) how they display the characteristic properties of vague language; and 3) what the properties of their associated orders (a.k.a. scales) are. It has been known for a long time in the literature (cf. Unger (1975), Pinkal (1995), Kennedy (2007), McNally (2011) a.o.) that there exist connections between context-sensitivity, vagueness, and scale structure; however, a formal system that expresses these connections has yet to be developed. By combining insights into the relationship between context-sensitivity and scalarity from the delineation semantics framework (Klein (1980), a.o.) with insights into the relationship between tolerance relations and the Sorites paradox from Cobreros, Égré;, Ripley & van Rooij (2012)’s Tolerant, Classical, Strict (TCS) framework, I propose such a logical system. Using this framework, I show that the association of particular classes of adjectives with their particular kinds of scales can be derived from their context-sensitivity and vagueness properties. In other words, I argue that from independently necessary theories of context-sensitivity and vagueness, we arrive at a full theory of gradability and scale structure in the adjectival domain.

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