- Affecting meaning: Subjectivity and evaluativity in gradable adjectives
- Award date
- 1 September 2015
- Number of pages
- Document type
- PhD thesis
- Interfacultary Research Institutes
Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC)
It is a well-known maxim that "in matters of taste, there can be no disputes". But it often happens that we disagree with others in matters of taste. A salient feature of such disputes is that they can be very hard to settle. Who is right concerning what is tasty, fun, or beautiful? It appears that no one has the upper hand because taste is, in some sense, subjective.
In recent years, philosophers of language and linguists have turned their attention to these issues, in particular to how taste disputes can be phrased in conversation. The basic hunch is that if a judgement like This cake is tasty is subjective, this is most probably related to the adjective tasty (rather than to, e.g., the noun cake).
Another question, one that is somewhat worrisome, is this. If adjectives like tasty are subjective, how can we understand someone else say, e.g., This cake is tasty?
What exactly does it mean to say that adjectives like tasty and long are subjective? How can they be subjective but still be comprehensible when someone else utters them?
This dissertation provides a systematic study of how subjectivity can enter into the meaning of some gradable adjectives in such a way that intersubjective understanding is possible. We mainly focus on the philosophical aspects of this question, so the contribution of this investigation is mostly of philosophical, rather than of linguistic nature.
- Research conducted at: Universiteit van Amsterdam
Series: ILLC dissertation series DS-2015-01
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