When faultless disagreement is not so faultless: What widely-held opinions can tell us about subjective adjectives
Keywords:subjective predicates, predicates of personal taste, faultless disagreement, experimental linguistics
When two people disagree about matters of taste, neither of them is in the wrong: There is nothing contradictory in an exchange where one person says 'The rollercoaster was fun!' and the other responds 'No, it was not fun.' This is in sharp contrast to disagreements about objective facts. This phenomenon is known as faultless disagreement, and is at the heart of theorizing about subjective adjectives. Despite this fundamental role, little scrutiny has been given to the empirical profile of faultless disagreement. Our experiment addresses two questions: (i) Is faultless disagreement a property of predicates, or of pairs of a predicate and an argument? (ii) Is faultless disagreement a binary phenomenon? Our results show that judgments of faultless disagreement (i) are modulated by the choice of argument, reflecting the prevalence of opinions in the relevant population, and (ii) fall into at least three distinct tiers, suggesting that faultless disagreement is a gradient phenomenon.
Published by the LSA with permission of the author(s) under a CC BY 4.0 license.