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LINGUIST List 22.3034

Wed Jul 27 2011

Diss: Semantics/Syntax: Xie: 'The Relevance of Gradability in ...'

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        1.     Zhiguo Xie , The Relevance of Gradability in Natural Language: Chinese and English

Message 1: The Relevance of Gradability in Natural Language: Chinese and English
Date: 26-Jul-2011
From: Zhiguo Xie <zx28cornell.edu>
Subject: The Relevance of Gradability in Natural Language: Chinese and English
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Institution: Cornell University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Zhiguo Xie

Dissertation Title: The Relevance of Gradability in Natural Language: Chinese
and English

Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Syntax


Dissertation Director(s):
Dorit Abusch
Mats Rooth
John B Whitman

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation explores how the syntax and semantics of gradability
contribute to the understanding of other linguistic phenomena. Within this
research agenda, I examine three different topics instantiating the interaction
between gradability and other linguistic notions. The exploration is important
not only for studying the linguistic properties of these phenomena, but also for
understanding theoretical issues behind them.
Chapter 1 provides an overview of the basics of degree semantics and the
interval-based ontological formalization of degrees. Chapter 2 presents a
detailed description and syntactic-semantic analysis of the construction in
which a possessive verb takes a surface degree expression. During the
description and analysis, the construction is compared to other degree
constructions. The interpretation of the construction can be derived from the
function of the possessive verb interacting with the interval-based
representation of degrees. My proposal provides additional support to the small
clause-based analysis of possessive verbs. Chapter 3 deals with the interaction
between nominal and adjectival gradability, through examining size adjectives
used as degree modifiers for gradable nouns. In particular, I examine the status
of the Bigness Generalization, which says that only positive size adjectives can
degree-modify gradable nouns. I show that the generalization is not categorical,
because negative size adjectives indeed can be degree modifiers for gradable
nouns in certain contexts. In the chapter I propose an analysis of the
phenomenon at the semantic-pragmatic interface that explains the violable nature
of the Bigness Generalization. Chapter 4 explores the relevance of gradability
to the interpretation of weak generic sentences best represented by Dutchmen are
good sailors. Interpreting such a sentence requires restricting the domain of
individuals that the sentence quantifies over and determining what the underlying
predicate is. The first aspect makes reference to a contextual standard
associated with the population denoted by the subject, and the second aspect
makes reference to a different standard, which is associated with the population
alternative to the denotation of the subject.

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