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Once again on norms and comparison classes

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

A central assumption about relative adjectives (e.g., big, old) is that their positive form is interpreted vis-à-vis a class-specific reference point located in the midzone of a series (norm). More recently, functional-cognitive studies argued that other reference points (e.g., argumentative zero, endpoints) are more relevant in actual language use than a norm. This paper argues that the two positions are not necessarily irreconcilable and experimentally tests a hypothesis that a norm is a default reference point used for the interpretation of relative adjectives in zero contexts. Experiment 1 addressed the location of a norm in the midzone of a series and its category dependence. As predicted by the traditional semantic studies, the cutoff point between big and small is located around the midpoint of a scale. Furthermore, its location is category-dependentand sensitive to prototypicality effects. The results further indicate that adults easily compute a contextually relevant norm by integrating their world knowledge with the visually provided information. Experiment 2 investigated the relevance of a norm in the online processing of relative adjectives. The results suggest that language users indeed exploit norms for the interpretation of relative adjectives in real time.
Tijdschrift: Linguistics : an interdisciplinary journal of the language sciences
ISSN: 0024-3949
Volume: 49
Pagina's: 525 - 553
Jaar van publicatie:2011
Trefwoorden:A1 Journal article
BOF-publication weight:1
CSS-citation score:1
Authors from:Higher Education