Chapter published in:Boundaries, Phases and Interfaces: Case studies in honor of Violeta Demonte
Edited by Olga Fernández-Soriano, Elena Castroviejo Miró and Isabel Pérez-Jiménez
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 239] 2017
► pp. 174–192
On the scalar properties and telicity of degree achievements
Kennedy & Levin (2008) argue that the aspectual properties of so-called degree achievement (DA) verbs (e.g. darken) can largely be predicted from the scale structure of the adjectives to which they are derivationally related (e.g. dark). Specifically, when the adjective is evaluated on a scale that is upper closed and the standard for the adjective to truthfully apply is the upper endpoint on that scale (i.e., when the adjective is absolute; see e.g. Kennedy & McNally 2005), the corresponding DA can be either telic or atelic. In contrast, when the adjective’s scale is open and the standard is context-dependent (i.e., when the adjective is relative), the corresponding DA is atelic. In this paper, I defend, following Kearns (2007), the position that telic interpretations of DAs are not directly a function of the standards for the adjectives from which the verbs are derived. Rather, the telic interpretation simply depends on it being possible to characterize the amount of change undergone in terms of the part structure of the event described, without reference to a specific comparison class. This conclusion will emerge from reflection on how the notions of relative and absolute standards can be recast in terms of similarity- vs. rule-based classification (as proposed in McNally 2011), extended from the adjectival to the verbal domain.
Keywords: lexical semantics, degree achievement, telicity, scale structure
Published online: 14 June 2017
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