Patricia Amaral Colloquium

November 5
3:30 - 5:00 pm
Indiana University Bloomington
Approximatives: almost more puzzling than before
Research on approximatives like English almost, Spanish casi, Italian quasi has contributed in important ways to the study of modification, scales, and typologies of meaning across languages. Recently, experimental data have broadened the empirical basis of this work and established connections with both developmental and cognitive perspectives.


In this talk I discuss some of the questions that have been raised by the research on approximatives, including: (i) the relation with the semantics of focus, (ii) the notion of scale required to account for their interpretation, and (iii) the need for a two-component analysis. First, ​building on Amaral and Del Prete (2010), I present the arguments for treating quasi as focus sensitive and focus-functional (in the sense of Beaver and Clark 2003) and address the common aspects of the semantics of approximatives and the semantics of focus. Then I consider the arguments for the scalarity of quasi; crucially, a general notion of scale is required in order to account in a uniform way for the properties of quasi as a cross-categorial modifier (as proposed in Amaral 2006; Amaral and Del Prete 2010, 2011). I focus in particular on the case of modification of temporal connectives and comparatives by quasi and discuss the contextual constraints on the use of quasi with the latter.


In the second part of the talk I focus on the two-component analysis of the meaning of quasi and almost and turn to the asymmetric status of the two meaning components. I discuss some to the challenges of the entailment-based analysis proposed, and consider it in the light of experimental research on first-language acquisition of approximatives (Amaral 2013; Tice and Amaral 2013, in progress). I discuss the possible contribution of this research both to our knowledge of semantic/pragmatic development in first language acquisition and to the study of the role of scales of typicality in categorization.