Semantic Variation in Conjoined Comparatives

Margit Bowler '11
Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, University of Manchester

All languages have a way to compare properties of objects. Stassen (1985, 2013) shows that some languages (primarily in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Amazon) express comparison by conjoining two positive (morphologically unmarked) assertions. In a language with conjoined comparatives, the expression “John is tall, Bill is short” is the translational equivalent of “John is taller than Bill.”

In this talk, Bower gives a semantics for conjoined comparison in Warlpiri (Pama-Nyungan, Australia) based on original fieldwork data. She will focus on one puzzle raised by the Warlpiri data: Warlpiri conjoined comparatives are felicitous in "crisp judgment contexts," in which the objects being compared differ only a very small amount with respect to the relevant property. Warlpiri conjoined comparatives differ in this respect from conjoined comparatives in other languages. 

Bowler will propose a tentative, two-part solution in which adjectival predicates in Warlpiri (i) contain an existentially bound degree argument, and (ii) assert that this degree is strictly greater than some contextual standard. This proposal has ramifications for how we model the semantics of positive adjectival predicates, and how they might vary cross-linguistically. It also enriches our understanding of semantic variation in languages with conjoined comparatives.

Sponsored by the division of philosophy, religion, psychology, and linguistics. Free and open to the public.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 4:30pm

Performing Arts Building, 131
3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, Oregon 97202-8199

Event Type

Lecture

Audience

Faculty, Students, Alumni, Open to the Public, Staff

Department
Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
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