Lake Pátzcuaro P’urhepecha and the Semantic Typology of Degree Constructions

  • Erik Zyman


Degree constructions are an area of grammar characterized by considerable crosslinguistic variation (Beck et al. 2009, Bhatt and Takahashi 2011, a.o.). As part of the project of describing and understanding the variation and nonvariation in this domain, I investigate the degree system of the Lake P´atzcuaro variety of P’urhepecha, an indigenous language of Mexico which is an isolate. By applying to Lake P´atzcuaro P’urhepecha the diagnostics developed by Beck et al. (2009), I show that this language has positive settings for the Degree Semantics Parameter, the Degree Abstraction Parameter, and the Degree Phrase Parameter, just like English. This is captured by extending to Lake P´atzcuaro P’urhepecha the semantic analysis of some core English degree constructions developed in Heim (2001) and related work. A prediction of this analysis—namely, that some Degree Phrases should participate in scope ambiguities—is shown to be correct for Lake Pátzcuaro P’urhepecha. Comparison between Lake Pátzcuaro P’urhepecha and English shows that two languages can have extremely similar degree systems even if they differ considerably along a number of dimensions in other areas of grammar, suggesting that crosslinguistic variation in degree systems may be largely independent of variation in other grammatical domains.
How to Cite
Zyman, E. (1). Lake Pátzcuaro P’urhepecha and the Semantic Typology of Degree Constructions. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 19, 695-712.