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On Degree Semantics (and Syntax)
Arnim von Stechow (Univ. Tübingen)

22 septembre 2008

Program: The degree argument is pervasive in natural language. Unlike the individual argument but like the world/situation-argument, the time, and the event argument, the degree argument is implicit. Degree semantics is mostly concerned with the analysis of comparative and superlative constructions of gradable adjectives and adverbs. But many other constructions crucially rely on the existence of a degree argument: some nominalisations (the love of Anna, the velocity of the car), how-questions, comparative quantifiers based on gradable adjectives (many, most, few), exclamatives and the complements of emotive factives (It is amazing how clever Max is, What an idiot John is!) among others. The lectures give an introduction into the basic notions of degree semantics and syntax, an application to some interesting constructions and the construction of LFs from surface syntax. Among the possible topics to be treated are:
– What are degrees? Construction of degrees as equivalence classes based on empirical equivalence relations, numerical degrees (2 meters) as special cases thereof.
– Comparative constructions, numerical degree phrases and cross-polar anomaly, the interpretation of quantifiers in than-clauses. Scope interactions of the comparative with verbal quantifiers (modals). The positive.
– Superlative constructions.
– Syntax and semantics: The construction of logical forms from surface syntax.
Courses:
1/ September 22, 2008 at 9:00 am,
2/ September 23, 2008 at 9:00 am,
3/ September 24, 2008 at 9:00 am,
4/ September 25, 2008 at 9:00 am.
Literature (will be made available as downloads on my homepage): The construction of degrees will be based on (Cresswell, 1976) and (Klein, 1991). The analysis of comparative constructions is based on (von Stechow, 1984b, von Stechow, 1984a) updated by recent work by (Heim and Kennedy, 2002), (Heim, 2006), (Schwarzschild and Wilkinson, 2002), (Beck, 2008) among others. For the interaction of the comparative with modals see (Heim, 2001) and (Krasikova, 2007). For the positive see (Cresswell, 1976) and (von Stechow, 2007). The analysis of comparative and superlative quantifiers is based on (Hackl, 2000, Hackl, 2006). The discussion of superlative constructions builds on work by (Szabolcsi, 1986), (Heim, 2004 (1999)), (Sharvit and Stateva, 2002). For the construction of LFs see (von Stechow, 2008).
References:
– Beck Sigrid, 2008. Quantifiers in than-clauses, Ms. Tübingen University.
– Cresswell M.J. 1976. "The Semantics of Degree", in Montague Grammar, ed. B. Partee, 261–292. New York: Academic Press.
– Hackl Martin, 2000. Comparative Quantifiers, Linguistics Department, MIT: PhD dissertation.
– Hackl Martin, 2006. On the Grammar and Processing of Proportional Quantifiers: ’Most’ versus ’More than Half’, Ms. Pomona College.
– Heim Irene, 2001. "Degree Operators and Scope", in Audiatur Vox apientiae. A Festschrift for Arnim von Stechow, eds. Caroline Féry and Wolfgang Sternefeld, 214–239. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
– Heim Irene, and Kennedy Chris, 2002. Semantics of Degree, Ms. Lecture Notes, Fall 2002. Boston, MIT.
– Heim Irene, 2004 (1999). Notes on Superlatives, Ms. Draft, MIT.
– Heim Irene, 2006. Remarks on Comparatives as Generalized Quantifiers, Ms. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
– Klein Ewan, 1991. "Comparatives", in Semantik. Ein internationales Handbuch der zeitgenössischen Forschung [Semantics. An International Handbook of Contemporary Research], eds. Dieter Wunderlich and Arnim von Stechow, 673–691. Berlin-New York: Walter de Gruyter.
– Krasikova Sveta, 2007. "Universal Modals in Comparatives", in Sinn und Bedeutung, 12. Oslo.
– Schwarzschild Roger, and Wilkinson Karina, 2002. "Quantifiers in Comparatives: A Semantics of Degree Based on Intervals", Natural Language Semantics, 10:1–41.
– Sharvit Yael, and Stateva Penka, 2002. "Superlative Expressions, Context, and Focus", Linguistics and Philosophy, 25:453–504.
– Szabolcsi Anna, 1986. "Comparative Superlatives", in Papers in Theoretical Linguistics, eds. Fukui, Rappaport and Sagey, 245–266. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT.
– von Stechow Arnim, 1984a. "My Reaction to Cresswell’s, Hellan’s, Hoeksema’s, and Seuren’s Comments", Journal of Semantics, 3:183–199.
– von Stechow Arnim, 1984b. "Comparing Semantic Theories of Comparison", Journal of Semantics, 3:1–77.
– von Stechow Arnim, 2007. "The temporal adjectives früh(er)/spät(er) and the semantics of the positive", in Quantification, Definiteness, and Nominalisation, eds. A. Giannakidou and M. Rathert, 17. Oxford: Oxford Press.
– von Stechow Arnim, 2008. Syntax and Semantics, Ms. Tübingen University.

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Arnim von Stechow Arnim von Stechow (Univ. Tübingen)
Arnim von Stechow is Professor Emeritus of General Linguistics at Universität Tübingen.

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