The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LF Reading Group 5/16 - Sophie Moracchini (MIT)

Speaker: Sophie Moracchini (MIT)
Title: Evaluativity and structural competition
Date and time: Wednesday, May 16, 1-2pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk, I investigate the morpho-semantics of the degree constructions in (1). Some of these constructions are known to give rise to presuppositions of evaluativity that do not follow from the traditional semantics assumed for degree constructions: when such presuppositions arise, the adjective’s interpretation seems to depend on a standard of comparison, whose value is fixed by the context of utterance (Rett 2008, 2014 and Breakstone 2013).

(1) a. Jane is taller than Tom is.
b. Jane is less tall than Tom is.
c. Jane is less short than Tom is. (Presupposition: Jane/Tom count as `short’ in the context.)
d. Jane is more short than Tom is. (Presupposition: Jane/Tom count as `short’ in the context.)

I will argue with Rett (2008, 2014) that evaluativity is contributed by an independent and optional morpheme `EVAL’, and that it is sometimes obligatory because of a semantic competition.

My goal is to state precisely what the competition is based on. I will show that a decompositional approach of degree expressions (that follows from Heim’s 2001,2008 and Büring’s 2007 Syntactic Negation Theory of Antonymy) introduces the right metric for competition: structural complexity. I will then formulate an LF-Economy Principle (adapted from Meyer 2013, Marty 2017) which rules out structures whenever their logical meaning is expressible by means of a structurally simpler alternative. By this principle, in absence of EVAL, (1c.) and (1.d) are ruled out by (1.a) by virtue of being structurally redundant. I also discuss additional aspects of EVAL’s distribution that can be explained by independently motivated claims about morphology, and I show how the inclusion of EVAL is either forced by the LF-Economy principle or ruled out by a PF-filter.