The Department of Linguistics is pleased to announce a dissertation oral presentation by Alex Djalali:
On adjectival comparatives
Monday, November 3, 2014, 2pm-3:15pm
Margaret Jacks Hall, Rm 126
The syntax and semantics of adjectival comparatives like (1a) are complicated matters that have concerned both syntacticians and semanticists for at least 100 years.
(1) a. Orcutt is taller than Smith (is)
(1) b. The maximal degree of height Orcutt possesses is greater than the maximal degree of height Smith possesses
It is generally agreed that (1a) is a suitable paraphrase of the meaning of (1b), which suggests, both implicitly and explicitly, that any formal syntactico-semantic analysis of adjectival comparatives should make reference to (at least) the notions of degrees, scales, and measures. The path I will pursue in this dissertation takes each of the aforementioned concepts seriously but moves away from standardly assumed degree-based analyses like Seuren (1973), von Stechow (1984), Heim (1985), Kennedy (1997) and Heim (2006) (to name just a few) to a more Cresswellilan-one (Cresswell 1976).
This might seem odd, if only because recent work like Kennedy (1997) can also be understood in a Cresswellilan-light. However, there are many aspects of Cresswell’s (1976) proposal–philosophical and formal–and in the work presented here, degrees themselves will not be understood as proper objects in my semantic ontology. If degrees exist at all, they will be understood as real numbers necessary only when considering a small sub-class of comparative constructions. I will argue that, in making such a move, one gets a better and more general treatment of the syntax and semantics of adjectival comparatives in the form of, what I take to be at least, a transparent albeit Spartan semantic representation language that makes no use of various misbehaved covert operators at the level of logical form that are traditionally present in the various semantic analysis of adjectival comparatives considered here. I will show that, even under the assumption of such minimal representations, my analysis gets the semantic facts involving adjectival comparatives right.
(The format for this open part of the oral exam is a 30-45 minute talk by the PhD candidate followed by questions from those attending, for a total of no more than 75 minutes. Please arrive promptly!)
Oral exam committee: Cleo Condoravdi and Chris Potts (Co-advisors), Dan Lassiter, Beth Levin
University oral exam chair: Thomas Icard (Philosophy)