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LINGUIST List 21.202

Wed Jan 13 2010

Qs: Adjectival Neutralisation Study

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        1.    Maarten De Backer, Adjectival Neutralisation Study

Message 1: Adjectival Neutralisation Study
Date: 13-Jan-2010
From: Maarten De Backer <M.DeBackerUGent.be>
Subject: Adjectival Neutralisation Study
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Dear colleagues,

I am currently investigating the phenomenon of neutralisation in German
with respect to adjectival oppositions (lang/kurz, hoch/niedrig,
gross/klein,breit/schmal, dick/dünn, ...).

Neutralisation typically occurs in the following contexts:

- Measure Phrases:
Das Kind ist drei Monate alt (the child is three months old)

- Expressions of Comparison:
A ist genauso/ebenso (Adj) wie B (A is as Adj as B)
A und B sind gleich (Adj) (A and B are equally Adj)
A ist (nicht) so Adj wie B (A is as Adj as B)

- Direct Questions:
Wie (Adj) ist X? (How Adj is X?)

- Indirect Questions:
Ich frage mich, wie (Adj) X ist (I wonder how Adj X is)

- Nominalizations:
Grösse (height,size)
Alter (age)
...

Interestingly, a corpus study bears out that these types of constructions
are not always equally ''neutral'' as is predicted by many theoretical
studies on this topic.

However, another interesting thing is that if the opposition is
neutralised, it is always the so-called ''unmarked'' adjective that can be
used with a neutral meaning (alt, gross, hoch, breit,...), at least as far
as the West-European languages are concerned.

My question is whether there are languages in the world that use a third
term that is (formally) different from the opposing adjectives in order to
convey the neutral meaning. In other words, whether there are languages
where a third term is used in contexts of neutralisation (so the relation
between the terms would be comparable to the lexical relation
brother/sister//sibling).

I would be very grateful for any kind of information or resource.

with kind regards,

Maarten De Backer
Ghent University
Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
Department of German and General Linguistics

M.DeBackerUGent.be

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
                            Syntax
                            Typology

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