Reference points in linguistic construal: Scalar adjectives revisited

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    This paper addresses one of the central assumptions in the analysis of scalar adjectives that their positive form is obligatorily interpreted vis-à-vis an average value. By this view, tall and taller than average are equivalent expressions. Counter to this well-established view, I argue that the two constructions are not equivalent; there are important semantic and functional differences between them. First, not all uses of the positive form are interpreted vis-à-vis an average value. Second, even in contexts where the average is relevant, it is not sufficient by itself: several standards of comparison are involved in the interpretation of scalar adjectives. Third, bare scalars and the Aer-than-average construction select different scale parts as their profile and are in this sense different construals of the gradual scale.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)233-260
    Number of pages28
    JournalStudia Linguistica
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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