The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Linguistics Colloquium: Chris Kennedy

Chris Kennedy (University of Chicago)

“Vagueness and Comparison”

Friday, October 10th, 2008, 3:30pm

Room 32-141

There will be a party in honor of Chris, beginning at 6:30pm, at
Gillian and Omer’s place.


Vagueness and comparison are linked together in a number of different ways, both empirically and analytically. Vague predicates typically support comparison (though not all predicates that support comparison are vague); some notion of comparison or similarity plays an important role in many accounts of vagueness; and several influential semantic analyses of (grammaticized) comparative constructions are based on prior semantic analyses of vagueness. However, despite (or maybe because of) these connections, the subtlety and significance of the places where vagueness and comparison do not line up have not been fully appreciated, either by philosophers or linguists. The goal of this talk is to examine such cases and discuss their significance. I will take a close look at the semantic and pragmatic properties of several different ways of expressing comparison, and show that some of them preserve canonical features of vagueness while some of them do not. I will then discuss the implications of the facts for the analysis of vagueness, for the semantics of comparison, and for our understanding of the ways that natural languages do and do not differ in encoding these concepts.