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Gradability in Natural LanguageLogical and Grammatical Foundations$
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Heather Burnett

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198724797

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198724797.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
Gradability in Natural Language

Heather Burnett

Oxford University Press

This chapter gives an introduction to the main topics studied in this work. This book presents a new theory of the relationship between vagueness, context sensitivity, and scale structure in natural language. In particular, this work is devoted to the description and analysis of the distribution of these phenomena within and outside the adjectival domain of English and other Indo-European languages. It is proposed that the semantic and pragmatic patterns that distinguish adjectives like tall from adjectives like straight, and determiner phrases (DPs) like many girls from DPs like the girls are reflexes of a single underlying difference in the semantics of these lexical items involving (a certain kind of) context sensitivity. Moreover, it is proposed that the data concerning both vagueness and scale structure in the adjectival and DP domains can be derived from the interaction between (lack of) context sensitivity and tolerance/indifference relations associated with general cognitive categorization processes.

Keywords:   Introduction, adjectives, determiner phrases, vagueness, context sensitivity, gradability, scale structure

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