Expressives and argument extension


  • Nicolás Lo Guercio National coucil for scientific and technological investigations (Argentina)
  • Eleonora Orlando National coucil for scientific and technological investigations (Argentina) - University of Buenos Aires



In this article, we discuss expressive adjectives ('the damn keys') and epithets ('that bastard John'). In recent literature (see Potts 2005 and Gutzmann 2019), these expressions have received a parallel semantic treatment. However, EAs and epithets present a remarkable difference, namely, only the former exhibit argument extension, an apparent mismatch between  syntax and semantics whereby EAs affect a syntactic constituent other than the one they directly modify. After a brief introduction and the presentation of the puzzle (sections 1 and 2), we advance a novel semantico-pragmatic approach to EAs that explains this difference (section 3). According to this view, EAs are Isolated CIs, roughly put,  expressions that bear propositional expressive meaning (and no at-issue meaning), and do not interact with the surrounding at-issue material in terms of functional application. In section 4, we present data that lends additional support to our proposal (and represents a prima facie challenge for some alternative approaches). Finally, in section 5 we discuss the alternative approaches to argument extension in Potts 2005 and Gutzmann 2019, and show some of their shortcomings.