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Detail of contribution

Auteur: Lisa BYLININA

The judge argument

Abstract/Résumé: I discuss judge-dependence of gradable adjectives and degree constructions. Take the positive construction as an example: whether sentences like 'John is tall', 'This cake is tasty', or 'Mary is smart' are true or false depends not only on a state of affairs but also on whose opinion is being expressed. In this sense, such sentences are subjective. Indeed, these examples pass the classic tests for subjectivity - they trigger 'faultless disagreement' effects and can be embedded under subjective attitude verbs like 'find'. At the same time, all these three adjectives showing subjective properties differ from each other. First, at least according to the 'find'-test, 'tasty' and 'smart', but not 'tall', are subjective both in positive and the comparative form: (1a) I find this cake tastier than that one. (1b) I find John smarter than Mary. (1c) *I find Mary taller than John. Second, 'tasty', but not 'smart' or 'tall', can take overt ‘judge’ PPs – 'to'- or 'for'-phrases introducing an opinion-holder: (2a) Apples are tasty for / to me. (2b) ??John is tall for / to me. (2c) ??Mary is smart for / to me. Thus only looking at three gradable adjectives we already see three classes of judge-dependent expressions: 1. 'Tasty'-class: subjective both in positive and comparative form, take judge PPs; 2. 'Smart'-class: subjective both in positive and comparative form, no judge PPs; 3. 'Tall'-class: subjective in positive but not in comparative form, no judge PPs. How should this diversity be explained? Does this diversity force one to say that there are many ‘types of subjectivity’ or can these differences be factored out and accounted for independently? Could there be a fourth class – subjective only in the positive form, but taking a judge PP? All in all, what is the compositional semantics of interaction between the judge and the standard? In the analysis I propose, the presence of judge PPs with certain subjective predicates is due to their experiential semantics, which is an issue independent (to a certain extent) of the subjectivity of these predicates. Those predicates that are subjective in comparative form are lexically subjective, while adjectives like 'tall' show subjectivity only in positive form because it is the positive morpheme POS that is subjective rather than the adjective itself. These decisions, together with a more articulated relation between experiencers of predicates like 'tasty' and judges, is the core of a unified analysis of subjectivity taken up here. In a nutshell, I argue that the judge is the best treated as part of index of evaluation in all cases I discuss. The apparent extra argument that we see with some subjective predicates always comes along with experiential semantics of the predicate and doesn’t have to be treated as an essential part of subjectivity per se.