On the ambidirectionality of Thai mid-scale predicates: How to get more ‘warm’ by getting less ‘hot’

Jérémy Zehr, Nattanun Chanchaochai


This paper presents new data on the semantic interaction between gradable
predicates and the Thai particle khuen. When the particle composes with rÓ:n (hot)
and nǎ:w (cold), it describes temperature increases and decreases, respectively, in
much the same way as English get hotter and get colder. However, when it composes
with so-called mid-scale predicates like Pùn (warm), it can describe increases or
decreases, as long as the change is toward temperatures described as Pùn (warm).

We first consider two types of analyses where (i) Pùn has an inherent central orien-
tation much like English mild or (ii) khuen describes changes oriented toward the
threshold of the gradable predicate it combines with. We argue against analyses of
type (i) and (ii) and show that they predict unattested interpretations.

We offer a semantic account for khuen in which the particle essentially picks an
alternative gradable predicate to the one it composes with, and describes changes
whose degree ends up lower than where it started on the alternative predicate’s scale.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/salt.v29i0.4598

Copyright (c) 2019 Jérémy Zehr