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On the Offensive

By Karen Stollznow

On the Offensive " This book sheds light on the derogatory phrases, insults, slurs, stereotypes, tropes and more that make up linguistic discrimination. Each chapter addresses a different area of prejudice: race and ethnicity; gender identity; sexuality; religion; health and disability; physical appearance; and age."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Relevance of Gradability in Natural Language: Chinese and English Add Dissertation
Author: Zhiguo Xie Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Cornell University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2011
Linguistic Subfield(s): Semantics; Syntax;
Director(s): John Whitman
Mats Rooth
Dorit Abusch

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.