Evaluative Degree Modification of Adjectives and Nouns
Vries, H. de
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It is a well-known but little-studied fact that evaluative adverbs - adverbs indicating the attitude of the speaker towards the information she is conveying - can modify degree ('incredibly tall', 'ridiculously expensive'...). This thesis offers a syntactosemantic account of evaluative degree modi fication of both gradable adjectives and gradable nouns. Following Morzycki (2004), I propose that evaluative degree modi fication involves a covert operator (which I will call EVAL); however, my proposal differs from that of Morzycki in several crucial respects. Most importantly, I argue that evaluative degree constructions should not be analysed as embedded exclamatives. Furthermore, I show how their syntactic behaviour illuminates their semantic composition, using evidence from different phenomena in both English and Dutch. Subsequently, I examine the linguistic evidence for the gradability of certain nouns, like 'idiot', 'nerd', 'genius', 'Barbie doll enthusiast', and 'weirdo', and conclude that they, like gradable adjectives, have a degree argument. I show how this class of gradable nouns may be defined in prototype-theoretic terms. Morzycki (2009) has shown that gradable nouns can be modified by size adjectives like 'big' and 'enormous'; I extend his account by including degree modification by evaluative adjectives. Finally, several suggestions for further research are offered.