We are happy to announce a talk by Carolin Reinert (GU Frankfurt) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place online. If you want to participate via zoom, please register via email to s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de.

Title: The compositionality of adjective noun constructions – The role of context-dependence

Date: January 27

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


There are two major proposals discussed in the literature regarding the question how adjectives are to be analyzed semantically: (i) adjectives are predicates or (ii) adjectives are modifiers (see, e.g., Montague 1970, Kamp 1975). While adjectives like red are analyzed as predicates, adjectives like tall and skillful need a more complex approach and receive a modifier analysis. However, there are alternatives on the market: for gradable adjectives like tall, complex predicate analyses such as the measure function approach (see, e.g., Kennedy 1999, 2005, Kennedy&McNally 2005) have been developed, building on the observation that such adjectives are dependent on a comparison class. As a consequence of the analysis as a complex predicate, these adjectives need not combine with the noun via Functional Application any more, as is the case under the modifier approach, but can do so via a rule of Intersection. In my thesis, I argue that a similar approach can be taken also for adjectives of the skillful-type. I assume that skillful-type adjectives, apart from being dependent on a comparison class as well, are dependent on an additional parameter, a comparison property. Given a value for these parameters, skillful-type adjectives turn out to be complex predicates after all, just like tall-type adjectives.

In this talk, I will focus on the context-dependence of the comparison class and the comparison property. Context-dependence is an important ingredient of the proposed approach to skillful-type adjectives: only a theory that assumes context-dependence only (opposed to a theory assuming both context and noun dependence) will provide predicate denotations for the adjectives and thus enable the adjective to combine with the noun via Intersection after all. In this light, I will investigate how useful it actually is for a theory to provide a “noun option” and elaborate on the pragmatic reasoning that comes with the “context option”. Eventually, I will argue for a “context dependence only” approach to adjective denotations.