Cross-categorial gradability in Logoori

Margit Bowler, John Gluckman


The central empirical observation of this paper is that there are polysemous lexical items in a number of unrelated languages that have similar, not intuitively related, meanings. These meanings are 'to arrive'/'to reach,' 'to be enough,' and 'must.' The central theoretical claim of this paper is based on a case study of one such polysemous lexical item in Logoori (Bantu, JE 41; Kenya). We argue that these three meanings all 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 main theoretical issue addressed in this paper is the application of ordered, abstract scales in a model of grammar. This paper is an abridged version of Bowler & Gluckman, to appear.

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