Positive gradable adjective ascriptions without positive morphemes


  • Fabrizio Cariani
  • Paolo Santorio
  • Alexis Wellwood




A long-standing tension in semantic theory concerns the reconciliation of positive gradable adjective (GA) ascriptions and comparative GA ascriptions. Vagueness-based approaches derive the comparative from the positive, and face non-trivial challenges with incommensurability and non-GA comparatives. Classic degree-based approaches effectively derive the positive from the comparative, out of sync with the direction of evidence from morphology, and create some difficulties in accounting for GA scale-mates with differing thresholds (e.g., 'cold' ∼ 'warm' ∼ 'hot'). We propose a new reconciliation that capitalizes on recent proposals analyzing GAs as predicates of states. On our account, GAs lexically involve both a threshold property and a background state structure. Positive occurrences of GAs make use of the threshold property, while comparative occurrences make use of degrees representing elements of the background structure. Our approach preserves the virtues of classic degree-based approaches while offering a natural account of scale-mates, and without appeal to covert morphemes like POS or related devices. As we show, it is possible to inject our solution back into the classic degree-based approach, but we find reasons to prefer our states-based account.




How to Cite

Cariani, F., Santorio, P., & Wellwood, A. (2023). Positive gradable adjective ascriptions without positive morphemes. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 27, 96–113. https://doi.org/10.18148/sub/2023.v27.1056