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Sawada & Grano (2009) (S&G) note that measure phrases (such as _2 meetoru_ "2 meters" and _5 do_ "5 degrees") in Japanese exhibit an asymmetry in interpretation when they occur with open-scale and (lower) closed-scale gradable adjectives: (1) (open-scale) Kono tana-wa 2-meetoru takai. this shelf-TOP 2-meter tall 'This shelf is 2 meters tallER (than some contextually salient shelf).' NOT: 'This shelf is 2 meters tall.' (2) (closed-scale) Kono sao-wa 5-do magat-te iru. This rod-TOP 5-degree bent 'This rod is 5 degrees bent.' NOT: 'This rod is 5 degrees MORE bent (than some contextually salient rod).' As can be seen in (1) and (2), an open-scale adjective induces a context dependent interpretation whereas a closed-scale adjective induces a context independent interpretation. S&G's analysis posits distinct invisible operators, one for cases like (1) and the other for cases like (2), to account for this asymmetry. I show that S&G's analysis suffers from both empirical and theoretical shortcomings. I propose an alternative analysis that eliminates the spurious distinction of the two invisible operators and show that this simpler analysis automatically solves all of the problems of S&G's analysis.
Semantics Research Group
Last modified: 2009-08-13 22:33:40 JST