Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Scales and their structure

This project is concerned with the model-theoretic semantics for expressions such as 1.73 m tall, about 4:00, more than 10 books, and older than Fred, whose meanings involve reference to or comparison between points on a scale.  Scales are known to vary in their structures, and differences in scale structure have been shown to underlie linguistic contrasts such as that between the felicitous completely dry and the infelicitous #completely expensive. But the complete range of scalar properties that natural language is sensitive to is not yet fully understood.

The goal of this project is to develop a general model of scale structure, based on a comprehensive set of linguistically relevant parameters of scalar variation, and to apply it to advance new analyses to a number of known problems in semantic analysis, including  i) the vagueness of gradable adjectives; ii) ambiguities with weak quantifiers; iii) imprecise use of numerical expressions; iv) the count/mass distinction.