Very Necessary: The Meaning of Non-gradable Modal Adjectives in Discourse Contexts

Authors

  • Maryam Rajestari
  • Simon Dobnik
  • Robin Cooper
  • Aram Karimi

Keywords:

modal adjectives, degree modifier, gradability, meaning variation

Abstract

In this paper we provide a quantitative and qualitative analysis of meaning of allegedly non-gradable modal adjectives in different discourse contexts. The adjectives studied are essential, necessary, crucial and vital which are compared with a gradable modal adjective important. In our study sentences containing these adjectives were chosen from a large corpus together with their contexts. Then 120 English native speakers evaluated the meaning of these adjectives in a crowd-sourced study. Different types of contexts were chosen for this purpose. In some the adjectives were used as gradable with a modifier very while in others as non-gradable, without a modifier. We also modified the contexts by adding or removing the modifier very. The task for evaluators was to provide a replacement for adjectives for all the resulting contexts. From the replacements we are able to quantitatively evaluate the semantic potential of these contexts and what kind of adjectives they license.

Downloads

Published

2021-08-12