MLC Seminar

Speaker: Ciyang Qing
Title: A new taxonomy of positive forms of gradable adjectives
Time: 16:00 - 17:30
Location: Online, via Zoom

This talk will take place online. To join the meeting, please click the link below.


Abstract. Positive forms of gradable adjectives (GAs) are usually classified into three classes, based on whether their standards are relative (e.g., tall), maximum (e.g., full), or minimum (e.g., wet). In addition, the latter two classes are grouped together as absolute GAs. Existing theories generally aim to provide a uniform account of the distinction between relative and absolute GAs. 

I propose a new taxonomy of positive forms of GAs (or more precisely, their readings) based on how their standards are determined. I argue that there are two readings of GAs. On one reading, the standard of a GA is determined by a distribution of relevant degrees. For instance, the standard of tall is determined by the distribution of people's heights. This provides a uniform account of relative and maximum adjectives, as well as the relative readings of minimum adjectives. On the other reading, the standard of a GA is based on a meaningful zero, which is not necessarily the minimum degree. I will show that this provides a better empirical characterization of minimum adjectives and further accounts for their similarity to and difference from comparative constructions.