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Auteur: Melania S. MASIA

Real modification in Spanish

Abstract/Résumé: Romance languages display two syntactic positions for adjectives in the NP: prenominal and postnominal, which have been claimed to reflect the semantic non-restrictive/restrictive distinction. Regular qualifying adjectives ('small') can appear in either of the two positions. However, intensional adjectives (Demonte 1999) ―including modal ('possible'), restrictive ('certain') and intensifying ('true') ones― are only prenominal and their meaning considerably differs from that of them when in postnominal position. In this paper I focus on Spanish intensifiers such as 'verdadero' (true), 'completo' (complete), or 'perfecto' (perfect), which present an adverbial counterpart ('verdaderamente' (truly), etc). They have been argued to be degree modifiers (Bolinger 1972, Morzycki 2009). However, they modify a wide range of elements including gradable and non-gradable adjectives (1), adverbs (2), gradable and non-gradable nouns (3) and VPs (4). Moreover, they show no sensitivity to scale structure, as degree modifiers do (Kennedy and McNally 2005) (5): 1. Era completamente hermoso/legal. 'It was absolutely beautiful/legal' 2. Conocía perfectamente bien al asesino. 'He knew the murderer really well' 3. Juan es un verdadero desastre / artista. 'Juan is a true disaster/artist' 4. La obra me impresionó verdaderamente. 'The play really impressed me' 5. La estatua es verdaderamente alta / desconocida / colosal. 'The statue is really tall / unknown / colossal' Thus, an analysis based on degrees does not capture the type of modification these adjectives and adverbs perform. Instead, their modification seems to be closer to that of other structures, such as contrastive focus reduplication (Ghomeshi et al. 2004, a.o.), and, cross-linguistically, to Washo 'šemu' (really) (Bochnak to appear) and Hebrew 'mamaš' (really) (McNabb 2012). Following Bochnak's and McNabb's analysis, I propose that the whole set of intensifying intensional adjectives and adverbs are modifiers that pick up a prototypical instance of a property or an event, modelled as the individual or the event that is an instance of the property in all possible contexts compatible with the speaker’s beliefs. For example, in (3), 'un verdadero artista' picks up the prototypical referent for the noun 'artist'. The intensification effects arise from the prototypical reading, and, in the case of gradable predicates, gives rise to apparent degree boosting ('really silly'/'very silly'). I aim to provide a uniform account for both intensifying adjectives and adverbs, arguing that they are just two representations of the same lexical item in different positions of the structure. The analysis will also take into account the relation between these intensional adjectives and the non-restrictive interpretation of other adjectives in prenominal position in Spanish.