Depictive secondary predicates in Spanish and the relative/absolute distinction*

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This study accounts for the unacceptability of individual-level gradable adjectives as (depictive) secondary predicates on the basis of two factors: (a) the semantics of gradable adjectives&#8212;specifically the way their comparison classes are formed in the syntax, giving rise to the difference between relative/absolute adjectives; (b) the pragmatic <i>inference of temporal persistence </i>that characterizes IL predicates. Absolute adjectives are evaluated with respect to a comparison class composed of counterparts (stages) of an individual, so that the property they express must be interpreted as subject to variation. Therefore, the inference of temporal persistence which seems to be at the basis of the individual-level character of predicates does not arise, giving rise to the stage-level interpretation that absolute adjectives receive. The inference of temporal persistence arises by default in the case of relative adjectives since in the comparison class selected by these adjectives there are no stages (of an individual) instantiating different degrees of the property but just different individuals manifesting different degrees of it. The inference of temporal persistence associated with relative adjectives makes the <i>simultaneity constraint</i> required by secondary predication contexts (McNally 1994) trivial and uninformative. As a consequence, only absolute adjectives are allowed in this syntactic environment.


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