Property concepts in Basaá and the ontology of gradability across category

Emily Anne Hanink, Andrew Koontz-Garboden, Emmanuel-moselly Makasso


Theories of gradability and comparison (e.g., Kamp 1975, Cresswell 1977 and many following) have been developed with data from familiar languages like English with adjectives at their core. In many languages, however, the main predicate in truth-conditionally equivalent constructions -- the property concept (PC) (cf. Dixon 1982) -- is of a different category: that of a nominal, which is predicated through possession cross-linguistically. Francez and Koontz-Garboden (2017) argue for a semantics for such nouns as mereologically and size-ordered sets of abstract portions, a treatment that keeps with their exhibition of mass noun behavior, with possessive predications and comparatives involving these nouns built on such a semantics.  A semantics of this kind is not standardly assumed for adjectives and constructions built on them in familiar languages, however, raising the question whether the truth-conditional equivalence of the constructions with nouns in languages that have them and the constructions with adjectives in languages that have them should be model-theoretically represented, a position assumed by Menon and Pancheva (2014), or whether this equivalence should be captured in some other way.  Based on data from modification, degree questions, subcomparatives, and equatives in Basaá (Bantu; Cameroon), we show that adjectives and the have+PC noun construction must in fact have a type-theoretically identical semantics.

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Copyright (c) 2019 Emily Anne Hanink, Andrew Koontz-Garboden, Emmanuel-moselly Makasso