Graded Modality: Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives

ISBN : 9780198701354

Daniel Lassiter
304 Pages
171 x 246 mm
Pub date
Jun 2017
Oxford Studies in Semantics and Pragmatics
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This book explores graded expressions of modality, a rich and underexplored source of insight into modal semantics. Studies on modal language to date have largely focussed on a small and non-representative subset of expressions, namely modal auxiliaries such as must, might, and ought. Here, Daniel Lassiter argues that we should expand the conversation to include gradable modals such as more likely than, quite possible, and very good. He provides an introduction to qualitative and degree semantics for graded meaning, using the Representational Theory of Measurement to expose the complementarity between these apparently opposed perspectives on gradation. The volume explores and expands the typology of scales among English adjectives and uses the result to shed light on the meanings of a variety of epistemic and deontic modals. It also demonstrates that modality is deeply intertwined with probability and expected value, connecting modal semantics with the cognitive science of uncertainty and choice.


Series preface
List of abbreviations
1 Gradation, scales, and degree semantics
2 Measurement theory and the typology of scales
3 Previous work on graded modality: Lewis and Kratzer
4 Epistemic adjectives: likely and probable
5 Certainty and possibility
6 Implications for the epistemic auxiliaries
7 Scalar goodness
8 Ought and should
9 Concluding remarks

About the author: 

Daniel Lassiter is Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at Stanford University. His research combines formal tools and experimental methods from linguistics, philosophy, and computational cognitive science to work towards a unified theory of language understanding as a cognitive phenomenon. His work has appeared in journals including Natural Language Semantics, Journal of Semantics, and Cognition.

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