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Adjectival and Adverbial Modification: The View from Modern Type Theories

Journal article
Authors Stergios Chatzikyriakidis
Z. Luo
Published in Journal of Logic, Language and Information
Volume 26
Issue 1
Pages 45-88
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 45-88
Language en
Links doi.org/10.1007/s10849-017-9246-2
Subject categories General Language Studies and Linguistics


In this paper we present a study of adjectival/adverbial modification using modern type theories (MTTs), i.e. type theories within the tradition of Martin-Lof. We present an account of various issues concerning adjectival/adverbial modification and argue that MTTs can be used as an adequate language for interpreting NL semantics. MTTs are not only expressive enough to deal with a range of modification phenomena, but are furthermore well-suited to perform reasoning tasks that can be easily implemented (e.g. in proof-assistants) given their proof-theoretic nature. In MTT-semantics, common nouns are interpreted as types rather than predicates. Therefore, in order to capture the semantics of adjectives adequately, one needs to meet the challenge of modeling CNs modified by adjectives as types. To explicate that this can be done successfully, we first look at the mainstream classification of adjectives, i.e. intersective, subsective and non-subsective adjectives. There, we show that the rich type structure available in MTTs, along with a suitable subtyping framework, offers an adequate mechanism to model these cases. In particular, this modelling naturally takes care of the characterising inferences associated with each class of adjectives. Then, more advanced issues on adjectival modification are discussed: (a) degree adjectives, (b) comparatives and (c) multidimensional adjectives. There, it is shown that the use of indexed types can be usefully applied in order to deal with these cases. In the same vein, the issue of adverbial modification is discussed. We study two general typings for sentence and VP adverbs respectively. It is shown that the rich type structure in MTTs further provides useful organisational mechanisms in giving formal semantics for adverbs. In particular, we discuss the use of -types to capture the veridicality/non-veridicality distinction and further discuss cases of intensional adverbs using the type theoretic notion of context (i.e. without resorting to intensional typing). We also look at manner, subject and speech act adverbials and propose solutions using MTTs. Finally, we show that the current proof technology can help mechanically check the associated inferences. A number of our proposals concerning adjectival and adverbial modification have been formalised in the proof assistant Coq and many of the associated inference patterns are checked to be correctly captured.

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