Volume 21, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2211-6834
  • E-ISSN: 2211-6842



This paper argues that ordered abstract scales are applicable to analyses of a range of grammatical domains. We argue this based on data from a number of unrelated languages, primarily Logoori (Bantu, JE 41; Kenya). The Logoori verb can be translated into English as ‘to arrive’/‘to reach,’ ‘to be enough,’ and ‘must,’ depending on its linguistic context. We propose that these meanings arise from a single semantic denotation that is sensitive to a shared gradable component in the semantics of linguistic expressions referring to spatial paths, gradable predicates, measures of plural count nouns/mass nouns, and modals. The central theoretical issue addressed in this paper is the application of ordered, abstract scales in a model of grammar. This data and proposal is an important contribution to the literature arguing for a gradable model of modality (Lassiter 20142017b, among others).

Available under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Bartsch, R. and Vennemann, T.
    (1972) The grammar of relative adjectives and comparison. Linguistische Berichte, 21:168–185.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Beck, S., Krasikova, S., Fleischer, D., Gergel, R., Hofstetter, S., Savelsberg, C., Vanderelst, J., and Villalta, E.
    (2009) Crosslinguistic variation in comparison constructions. Linguistic Variation Yearbook 2009, 9:1–66. 10.1075/livy.9.01bec
    https://doi.org/10.1075/livy.9.01bec [Google Scholar]
  3. Bhatt, R.
    (1999) Covert Modality in Non-finite Contexts. PhD thesis, University of Pennsylvania.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. (2006) Covert Modality in Non-finite Contexts. Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110197341
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197341 [Google Scholar]
  5. Bierwisch, M.
    (1989) The semantics of gradation. InBierwisch, M. and Lang, E., editors, Dimensional Adjectives: Grammatical Structure and Conceptual Interpretation, pages71–261. Springer Verlag. 10.1007/978‑3‑642‑74351‑1_3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-74351-1_3 [Google Scholar]
  6. Bochnak, R.
    (2013) Cross-linguistic Variation in the Semantics of Comparatives. PhD thesis, University of Chicago.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Bostoen, K., Dom, S., and Segerer, G.
    (2015) The antipassive in Bantu. Linguistics, 53(4):731–772. 10.1515/ling‑2015‑0016
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2015-0016 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bowler, M. and Gluckman, J.
    (2020) Cross-categorial gradability in Logoori. InProceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory30.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Bybee, J., Perkins, R., and Pagliuca, W.
    (1994) The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Cresswell, M.
    (1976) The semantics of degree. InPartee, B., editor, Montague Grammar, pages261–292. Academic Press, New York. 10.1016/B978‑0‑12‑545850‑4.50015‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-545850-4.50015-7 [Google Scholar]
  11. (1978) Prepositions and points of view. Linguistics and Philosophy, 2(1):1–41. 10.1007/BF00365129
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00365129 [Google Scholar]
  12. Dixon, R.
    (1982) Where Have All the Adjectives Gone? And Other Essays in Semantics and Syntax. Mouton, The Hague. 10.1515/9783110822939
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110822939 [Google Scholar]
  13. Dom, S., Kulikov, L., and Bostoen, K.
    (2018) Valency-decreasing derivations and quasimiddles in Bantu: A typological perspective. Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, 36(3):165–173. 10.2989/16073614.2018.1552164
    https://doi.org/10.2989/16073614.2018.1552164 [Google Scholar]
  14. Faller, M.
    (1999) Dimensional adjectives and measure phrases in vector space semantics. InMartina Faller, S. K. and Pauly, M., editors, Formalizing the Dynamics of Information, pages151–170. CSLI Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Francez, I. and Koontz-Garboden, A.
    (2015) Semantic variation and the grammar of property concepts. Language, 91(3):533–563. 10.1353/lan.2015.0047
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2015.0047 [Google Scholar]
  16. (2017) Semantics and Morphosyntactic Variation: Qualities and Grammar of Property Concepts. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198744580.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198744580.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  17. Gluckman, J.
    (2018) Iterative-reciprocal polysemy in Logoori. InBochnak, R., editor, Proceedings of The Semantics of African, Asian and Austronesian Languages6.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Gluckman, J. and Bowler, M.
    (2016) Expletive agreement, evidentiality, and modality in Logooli. InProceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory26, pages1063–1082. 10.3765/salt.v26i0.3935
    https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v26i0.3935 [Google Scholar]
  19. (2020) The expression of modality in Logoori. Forthcoming inJournal of African Languages and Linguistics. 10.1515/jall‑2020‑2010
    https://doi.org/10.1515/jall-2020-2010 [Google Scholar]
  20. Gluckman, J., Bowler, M., Sifuna, M., Alulu, K., and Diercks, M.
    (2017) A typological study of modality in Luhya languages. Handout, Annual Conference on African Linguistics 48.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Grosu, A. and Landman, F.
    (1998) Strange relatives of the third kind. Natural Language Semantics, 6:125–170. 10.1023/A:1008268401837
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008268401837 [Google Scholar]
  22. Halpert, C.
    (To appear). The augment. InThe Oxford Guide of Bantu Languages. Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Heim, I.
    (1987) Where does the definiteness restriction apply? Evidence from the definiteness of variables. InTer Meulen, A. and Reuland, E., editors, The Representation of (In)definiteness, pages21–42. MIT Press, Cambridge.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Heim, I. and Kratzer, A.
    (1998) Semantics in Generative Grammar. Blackwell Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Hohaus, V.
    (2012) Directed motion as comparison: Evidence from Samoan. InBogal-Allbritten, E., editor, Proceedings of SULA6, pages335–348.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. (2018) How do degrees enter the grammar? Language change in Samoan from [-DSP] to [+DSP]. InBogal-Allbritten, E. and Coppock, E., editors, Proceedings of The Semantics of African, Asian and Austronesian Languages4, pages106–120.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. (2020) Language change and the Degree Semantics Parameter. Manuscript.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Kennedy, C.
    (1999) Projecting the Adjective: The Syntax and Semantics of Gradability and Comparison. Garland, New York.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. (2001) Polar opposition and the ontology of ‘degrees’. Linguistics and Philosophy, 24(1):33–70. 10.1023/A:1005668525906
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005668525906 [Google Scholar]
  30. (2011) Vagueness and comparison. InEgré, P. and Klinedinst, N., editors, Vagueness and Language Use, pages73–97. Palgrave Macmillan, London. 10.1057/9780230299313_4
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230299313_4 [Google Scholar]
  31. Kennedy, C. and McNally, L.
    (2005) Scale structure and semantic typology of gradable predicates. Language, 81(2):345–81. 10.1353/lan.2005.0071
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2005.0071 [Google Scholar]
  32. Klecha, P.
    (2014) Bridging the Divide: Scalarity and Modality. PhD thesis, University of Chicago.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Kratzer, A.
    (1981) The notional category of modality. InEikmeye, H. and Rieser, H., editors, Words, Worlds, and Contexts: New Approaches in Word Semantics, pages38–74. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin. 10.1515/9783110842524‑004
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110842524-004 [Google Scholar]
  34. (1991) Modality. Invon Stechow, A. and Wunderlich, D., editors, Semantics: An International Handbook of Contemporary Research, pages639–650. Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Krifka, M.
    (1998) The origins of telicity. InEvents and Grammar, pages197–235. Springer, Dordrecht. 10.1007/978‑94‑011‑3969‑4_9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-3969-4_9 [Google Scholar]
  36. Lassiter, D.
    (2010) Gradable epistemic modals, probability, and scale structure. InProceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory20. 10.3765/salt.v20i0.2557
    https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v20i0.2557 [Google Scholar]
  37. (2011) Measurement and modality. PhD thesis, New York University.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. (2014) Modality, scale structure, and scalar reasoning. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 95:461–490. 10.1111/papq.12045
    https://doi.org/10.1111/papq.12045 [Google Scholar]
  39. (2017a) Graded modality. Manuscript, Stanford University. 10.1093/oso/9780198701347.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198701347.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  40. (2017b) Graded Modality: Qualitative and Quantitative Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/oso/9780198701347.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198701347.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  41. (in press). Graded modality. InBlackwell Companion to Semantics. Wiley-Blackwell. 10.1093/oso/9780198701347.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198701347.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  42. Lewis, D.
    (1973) Counterfactuals. Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Link, G.
    (1983) The logical analysis of plurals and mass terms: A lattice-theoretic approach. InPortner, P. and Partee, B., editors, Formal Semantics: The Essential Readings, pages127–146. Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Maslova, E.
    (2003) Tundra Yukaghir, volume 372 of Languages of the World. LINCOM Europa, Munich.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Meier, C.
    (2003) The meaning of too, enough, and so… that. Natural Language Semantics, 11:69–107. 10.1023/A:1023002608785
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023002608785 [Google Scholar]
  46. Mugane, J.
    (1997) Bantu Nominalization Structures. PhD thesis, University of Arizona.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Munro, P. and Willmond, C.
    (1995) Chickasaw: An Analytical Dictionary. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Nurse, D. and Philippson, G.
    (2003) The Bantu Languages. Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Portner, P.
    (2009) Modality. Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Portner, P. and Rubenstein, A.
    (2016) Extreme and non-extreme deontic modals. InCharlow, N. and Chrisman, M., editors, Deontic Modality. Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198717928.003.0010
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198717928.003.0010 [Google Scholar]
  51. Rett, J.
    (2014) The polysemy of measurement. Lingua, 143:242–266. 10.1016/j.lingua.2014.02.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2014.02.001 [Google Scholar]
  52. (2015) The Semantics of Evaluativity. Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. (2018) The semantics of many, much, few, and little. Language and Linguistics Compass, 12:1–18. 10.1111/lnc3.12269
    https://doi.org/10.1111/lnc3.12269 [Google Scholar]
  54. Samuels, A. and Paster, M.
    (2015) Verbal tone in Logoori. Handout from Workshop on Luyia Bantu Languages at Annual Conference on African Linguistics 46.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Schwarzschild, R.
    (2012) Directed scale segments. InProceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory22, pages65–82. 10.3765/salt.v22i0.2634
    https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v22i0.2634 [Google Scholar]
  56. (2013) Degrees and segments. InProceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory23, pages212–238. 10.3765/salt.v23i0.2661
    https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v23i0.2661 [Google Scholar]
  57. Seidl, A. and Dimitriadis, A.
    (2003) Statives and reciprocal morphology in Swahili. Typologie des langues d’Afrique et universaux de la grammaire.
    [Google Scholar]
  58. Stassen, L.
    (1985) Comparison and Universal Grammar. Basil Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. van der Auwera, J. and Plungian, V.
    (1998) Modality’s semantic map. Linguistic Typology, 2:79–124. 10.1515/lity.1998.2.1.79
    https://doi.org/10.1515/lity.1998.2.1.79 [Google Scholar]
  60. Vander Klok, J.
    (2014) Questionnaire on modality for cross-linguistic use. www.eva.mpg.de/lingua/tools-at-lingboard/questionnaire/cross-linguisticuse.php
  61. Villalta, E.
    (2008) Mood and gradability: an investigation of the subjunctive mood in Spanish. Linguistics and Philosophy, 31:467–522. 10.1007/s10988‑008‑9046‑x
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-008-9046-x [Google Scholar]
  62. von Stechow, A.
    (1984) My reaction to Cresswell’s, Hellan’s, Hoeksema’s and Seuren’s comments. Journal of Semantics, 3:183–199. 10.1093/jos/3.1‑2.183
    https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/3.1-2.183 [Google Scholar]
  63. Winter, Y.
    (2005) Cross-categorial restrictions on measure phrase modification. Linguistics and Philosophy, 28(2):233–267. 10.1007/s10988‑004‑1469‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-004-1469-4 [Google Scholar]
  64. Yalcin, S.
    (2010) Probability operators. Philosophy Compass, pages916–937. 10.1111/j.1747‑9991.2010.00360.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-9991.2010.00360.x [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Bantu; gradability; gradable predicates; modality; semantics
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error