Revisiting Olga, the beautiful dancer: An intersective A-analysis

Claudia Maienborn


The paper presents a novel semantic account of the so-called "intersective/non-intersective" ambiguity of structures such as beautiful dancer. The proposal contrasts with Larson's (1998) famous N-analysis in taking the adjective as the ambiguity trigger and in unmasking the bracketing paradox perception of the non-intersective reading as a grammatical illusion. The adjective has no compositional access to the verbal root's event argument but is always linked to the referential argument of the noun. -er nominals are analyzed as a special kind of role noun (such as king, guest, judge). They introduce a social role r that manifests itself via the verbal root's e-argument. (However, neither r nor e are compositionally active.) An evaluative adjective such as beautiful introduces an underspecified trope variable, which calls for a pragmatic specification of the adjectival predicate's ultimate target. A general pragmatic parsimony condition ensures that referents introduced by linguistic material are chosen as best target candidates whenever possible. The -er nominal's social role r is an ideal choice in this respect. The linking of the adjective to the verbal root's e-argument is mediated via r and thus a secondary pragmatic effect. The proposal provides a unified analysis for modified -er nominals (beautiful dancer) and other instances of role- and event-related interpretations for adnominal modification such as, e.g., just king.

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