Approximation and the coercion of gradable predicates

Erin Zaroukian


The modifier approximately shows a surprising pattern of distribution when combined with non-numeral items, such as scalarly-coerced nouns like lasagna in (2).

(1) John read approximately five books.
(2) a. ??John served approximately lasagna.
b. What John served was approximately lasagna.

I propose a explanation in terms of semantic types such that approximately+NP is only licit in copular-type constructions.

This pattern does not carry over to prepositional modifiers (e.g. about), and I propose that the difference lies in their ability to coerce scalar predicates out of their complements.

(3) What John served was ??about/??around lasagna.

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