LINGUIST List 3.446
Mon 01 Jun 1992
Qs: Lists, Adjectives, Comma, Unhappier, Gopnik
Editor for this issue: <>
Michael Sikillian/Annotext, Lists on text processing
L. M. P. McPherson, Query: Adjectives versus Verbs; Attribution versus Predication
(. M. P. McPherson, comma-tose
Greg Stump, the _unhappier_ paradox
Pier Marco Bertinetto, Gopnik
Message 1: Lists on text processing
Date: 26 May 92 13:40:02 EDT
From: Michael Sikillian/Annotext <76264.1323compuserve.com>
Subject: Lists on text processing
Does anyone know whether there are any listserv or bitnet lists for
text processing or linguistic software? Thank you.
Message 2: Query: Adjectives versus Verbs; Attribution versus Predication
Date: Wed, 27 May 92 02:05:49 EDQuery: Adjectives versus Verbs; Attribution versus Predication
From: L. M. P. McPherson <piscesbinkley.cs.mcgill.ca>
Subject: Query: Adjectives versus Verbs; Attribution versus Predication
Can anyone provide examples of languages that do not appear to have
a distinction between verbs and adjectives? I realise that the
definitions of the categories "verb" and "adjective" are not universal
and no accepted standards are available, so please describe the criteria
that underly your identification of verbs and adjectives in a given
In languages that have adjectives, is there always a distinction
between attributive and predicative adjectives? Or do some languages
lack this distinction? If some do not distinguish these two types of
adjectives, do adjectives in those languages appear within a noun
phrase (i.e., attributively) or after a copula (i.e., predicatively)?
Or does their use fall in neither of these categories?
Dixon (1982) claims that some languages with adjectives do not have an open/
major class of adjectives, but just a small, closed/minor class containing
words that most often describe relative dimension (small, long, wide, etc.),
relative age (e.g., new, young, old), value (good, bad), and colour (red,
black, etc.). Are adjectives belonging to a closed/minor class used differently
than adjectives from an open/major class? For example, is the attributive/
predicative distinction missing for languages that have a small, closed
class of adjectives? (Examples he gives of languages with a closed/minor
class of adjectives are Igbo from the Kwa subgroup of the Niger-Congo
family, the Chadic language Hausa, Bantu languages, the North Australian
Malak Malak, Southern Paiute, the Dravidian Pengo, the Central African
Creole Sango, the Guianese language Carib, and the Nilo-Saharan language
I am also interested in examples of concepts that are expressed
adjectivally in one or more languages and verbally in other languages.
In English, some concepts are expressed both ways; for example, the
verb "to like" and the adjectival expression "to be fond of" express
the same concept. Are there concepts that are routinely expressed
with a verb in some languages but which are habitually expressed
with an adjective in other languages? Perhaps "to like," "to need," "to
want," "to sit" or other English verbs are synonymous with adjectives in
some other language? Perhaps the English adjectives "fuzzy," "short," "blue,"
"lovely," "ardent," "difficult," or others have verbal counterparts in
other languages? Nominal expressions for concepts expressed adjectivally
in some languages are also of interest to me.
Reference: Dixon, R. M. W. (1982). Where have all the adjectives gone?
Message 3: comma-tose
Date: Wed, 27 May 92 15:44:12 CScomma-tose
From: (. M. P. McPherson <baronux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
As the sole linguist in our English department, I get to answer the
language questions that come in from the outside. One Dr. J. Holler
of Paris, IL, writes to ask "What, is the word, that means, the over-
use, of commas?"
On the off-chance he means something other than commatose, perhaps
one of you could help me compose a reply. I've already
considered virgulitis, which in its more virulent form, becomes virgulosis.
I find nothing in Fowler (sv _stops_). Should I send Dr. Holler a bill?
I'm sure he'd send me one if I asked him a medical question.
I doubt very much that he has any language insurance, so I may have to
consider this pro bono. I am, after all, a state employee.
Dennis Baron debaronuiuc.edu
Dept. of English office: 217-244-0568
University of Illinois messages: 217-333-2392
608 S. Wright St fax: 217-333-4321
Urbana IL 61801
Message 4: the _unhappier_ paradox
Date: Fri, 29 May 92 16:33:39 ESthe _unhappier_ paradox
From: Greg Stump <ENG101UKCC.uky.edu>
Subject: the _unhappier_ paradox
In his squib `_Unhappier_ Is Not a "Bracketing Paradox"' (LI 23 (1992),
347-352), Richard Sproat argues that _unhappier_ can be assumed to have
the structure [ un [ happi er ]] for both phonological and semantic
purposes. His reasoning is this. Although _un-_ is interpreted as
merely contradictory negation when it combines with nonscalar adjec-
tives (e.g. _uncompiled_ `not compiled'), it is interpreted as
contrary negation when it combines with scalar adjectives (e.g.
_unhappy_ `the opposite of happy' and not merely `not happy'). So,
`[o]n analogy with the behavior of _un-_ with scalar adjectives like
_happy_, ..., it follows that [ un [ happi er ]] must be interpreted
as being at the opposite end of the range from _happier_' (pp.349-
350); and this, he points out, is the desired interpretation for
Sproat acknowledges that if _un-_ is interpreted as contrary rather
than contradictory negation, then [[ un happi ] er ] (= his (1b))
would also yield the right interpretation for _unhappier_; `the
point is that it is not _necessary_ to assume the structure in (1b)
in order to get the right interpretation' (p.350n). He also ack-
nowledges that _unrulier_ must be regarded as genuinely paradoxical,
since *_ruly_ and *_rulier_ do not exist alongside _unruly_; thus,
while the phonological structure must be [ un [ ruli er ]], the
semantic structure must instead be [[ un ruli ] er ]. So his argu-
ment is that _unhappier_ isn't as certain an exemplar of the
_un-ADJ-er_ paradox as cases like _unrulier_.
I have doubts about this conclusion, though:
(i) Is it necessarily the case that the comparative form of a
scalar adjective is itself scalar? Assuming that environ-
ments like `very _____', `less _____', and `as _____ as
Sandy' are diagnostic of scalar adjectives, _happy_ seems
to be scalar, but _happier_ does not. The possibility of
_much happier_ might at first seem to constitute evidence
that _happier_ is scalar, but it isn't clear that _much_
isn't in fact modifying the comparative functor rather
than the comparative adjective as a whole; cf. *_much
happy_; _Are they much more happy?_/_Yes, much more_.
(ii) When it combines with scalar adjectives having an
inherently comparative meaning (e.g. _inferior_,
_superior_), _un-_ is interpreted as contradictory
rather than contrary negation. For instance, _Sandy
wants to find someone uninferior to her at chess_
doesn't mean `Sandy wants to find someone superior
to her at chess'.
(iii) In many cases, even when ADJ and _un-ADJ_ coexist,
distinct phonological and semantic structures must
apparently be assumed; for instance, _uneasier_
must be [ un [ easi er ]] phonologically, but
[[ un easi ] er ] semantically.
(iv) Finally, as I have shown elsewhere (`A Paradigm-based
Theory of Morphosemantic Mismatches', _Language_ 67
(1991), 675-725), the _unhappier_ paradox becomes
completely unparadoxical when viewed as an instance of
the H-application Default, a widely-motivated principle
regulating the interaction of inflectional morphology
with category-preserving derivation.
Message 5: Gopnik
Date: Fri, 29 May 92 19:02:05 SEGopnik
From: Pier Marco Bertinetto <BERTINETIPISNSIB.bitnet>
Some time ago there was a debate on recent work by Gopnik. Could anybody give m
e her email? (private answer please)
PIER MARCO BERTINETTO SCUOLA NORMALE SUPERIORE
TEL. +39/(0)50/597111 PIAZZA DEI CAVALIERI 7
FAX +39/(0)50/563513 I 56100 PISA, ITALIA