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1.3.2.2. Semantic classification
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Many semantic subclassifications have been proposed for the set-denoting adjectives, but most of them seem to have a rather arbitrary flavor. Nevertheless, some of these distinctions have been claimed to be syntactically relevant (especially in the realm of modification, which is extensively discussed in Chapter 3), which is why we will briefly discuss these distinctions in the following subsections. It should be kept in mind, however, that in principle many other distinctions can be made, for other purposes, and that the classes discussed below exhibit a considerable overlap; see Subsection III for discussion.

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[+]  I.  Scales and scalar adjectives

Many set-denoting adjectives are scalar. The primeless examples in (58) express that both Jan and Marie are part of the set denoted by the adjective ziek'ill', which will be clear from the fact that they imply the primed examples. The function of the intensifiers vrij'rather' and zeer'very' is to indicate that Jan and Marie do not exhibit the property of being ill to the same degree. This means that the possibility of adding an intensifier indicates that some scale is implied; the function of intensifiers vrij and zeer is to situate the illness of Jan and the illness of Marie at different places on this scale. This can be schematized as in (58c).

Example 58
a. Jan is vrij ziek.
  Jan is rather ill 
a'. Jan is ziek.
  Jan is ill
b. Marie is zeer ziek.
  Marie is very ill 
b'. Marie is ziek.
  Marie is ill
c. Scale of illness:

The schema in (58c) indicates that Jan is less ill than Marie. Further, it indicates that there is some point to the left of Jan where we start to talk about illness; the scale is bounded at its left side. However, as long as the person involved stays alive, there is no obvious point on the right side of the scale where we stop talking about illness; the scale is unbounded at the right side. This subsection will discuss several types of scalar adjectives on the basis of the properties of the scales that they imply.

[+]  A.  Antonymous adjectives

Many set-denoting adjectives come in antonym pairs, which can be situated on a single scale. Some examples are given in (59). The following subsections will show, however, that the scales implied by these antonym pairs may differ in various respects.

Example 59
a. slecht 'evil/bad'
a'. goed 'good'
b. klein 'small'
b'. groot 'big'
c. vroeg 'early'
c'. laat 'late'
d. gezond 'healthy'
d'. ziek 'ill'
e. leeg 'empty'
e'. vol 'full'
[+]  1.  Scales that are unbounded on both sides

First consider the scale implied by the pair goed'good' and slecht'evil/bad', given in (60). The two adjectives each indicate a range on the scale, that is, they are both scalar. Further, the implied scale is unbounded on both sides. However, between the two ranges denoted by goed and slecht, there is a zone where neither of the two adjectives is applicable, and which we will call the neutral zone.

Example 60
Scale of “goodness":

That there is a neutral zone is clear from the fact that slecht'evil/bad' and niet goed'not good' are not fully equivalent. The difference can be made clear by looking at the logical implications in (61a&b). The fact that slecht implies niet goed, but that niet goed does not imply slecht can be accounted for by making use of the scale of “goodness" in (60). As can be seen in (61c), niet goed covers a larger part of the scale than slecht: it includes the neutral zone.

Example 61
a. Jan is slecht.
  Jan is evil 
a'. Jan is niet goed.
  Jan is not good
b. Jan is niet goed.
  Jan is not good 
b'. Jan is slecht.
  Jan is evil
c.

That we need to postulate a neutral zone is also clear from the fact that examples such as (62a) are not contradictory, but simply indicates that Janʼs goodness should be situated somewhere in the neutral zone. This is shown in (62b).

Example 62
a. Jan is niet goed, maar ook niet slecht.
  Jan is not good  but  also  not  bad
  'Jan isnʼt good, but he isnʼt bad either.'
b.
[+]  2.  Scales that are bounded on one side

The scale of size in (63) implied by the measure adjectives klein'small' and groot'big' in (59b) is similar to the scale of “goodness" in most respects, but differs from it in that it is bounded on one side; the size of some entity cannot be smaller than zero. Observe that this implies that, unlike the scale of “goodness", the scale of size has a natural anchoring point. In this sense, adjectives like goed and slecht are more subjective than measure adjectives like klein and groot; see Subsection C below for more discussion.

Example 63
Scale of size:
[+]  3.  Scales that are bounded on both sides

The implied scale can also be bounded on both sides. This is the case with the temporal scale implied by the adjectives vroeg'early' and laat'late' in (59c). When we assert that Jan is getting up early, that may be consistent with Jan getting up at 6:00 or 5:00 a.m., but presumably not with him getting up at 1:00 a.m. or at 11:00 p.m. Similarly, by asserting that Jan is getting up late, we may be saying that he is getting up at 11:00 a.m. or at 1:00 p.m., but presumably not that he is getting up at 11:00 p.m. or at 1:00 a.m. Beyond a certain point (which may be vaguely defined, and can perhaps be changed when the context provides information that favors that) the adjectives are simply no longer applicable (this is indicated by ### in (64)).

Example 64
Temporal scale of vroeg and laat:
[+]  4.  Scales with one absolute and one gradable adjective

In the examples in the previous subsections, the two antonyms are both gradable. This need not be the case, however. The adjective gezond'healthy' in (59d), for instance, does not seem to be scalar itself; rather, it is absolute (see the discussion of (68)), and indicates one end of the scale. In other words, we may represent the scale of illness as in (65).

Example 65
Scale of illness:

Many gradable adjectives that imply a scale that is bounded on one side are deverbal or pseudo-participles; cf. the primeless examples in (66) and (67). Their antonyms, which are situated at the boundary of the scale, are often morphologically derived by means of on- prefixation. In the case of the pseudo-participles occasionally no antonym exists, so that we can only express the negative counterpart by means of the negative adverb niet.

Example 66
a. brandbaar 'combustible'
a'. onbrandbaar 'incombustible'
b. bereikbaar 'attainable'
b'. onbereikbaar 'unattainable'
c. begroeid 'overgrown'
c'. onbegroeid 'without plants'
d. toegankelijk 'accessible'
d'. ontoegankelijk 'inaccessible'
Example 67
a. bekend met 'familiar with'
a'. onbekend met 'unfamiliar with'
b. bestand tegen 'resistant to'
b'. niet bestand tegen 'not resistant to'
c. gewond 'wounded'
c'. ongewond 'not wounded'
d. opgewassen tegen 'up to'
d'. niet opgewassen tegen 'not up to'
e. verwant aan 'related to'
e'. niet verwant aan 'not related to'

      That gezond and the adjectives in the primed examples in (66) and (67) are not scalar but absolute is clear from the fact that they can be modified by adverbial phrases like absoluut'absolutely', helemaal'completely' and vrijwel'almost', as in (68). We show these examples with topicalization of the AP in order to block the reading in which absoluut/vrijwel is interpreted as a sentence adverb. The examples are perhaps stylistically marked but at least the cases with absoluut become fully acceptable if we add the negative adverb niet'not' at the end of the clause.

Example 68
a. Absoluut/vrijwel gezond is Jan.
  absolutely/almost  healthy  is Jan
b. Absoluut/vrijwel onbrandbaar is deze stof .
  absolutely/almost  incombustible  is this material
c. Helemaal/vrijwel onbekend met onze gewoontes is Jan.
  completely/almost  not.familiar  with our habits  is Jan

The examples in (69) show that these adverbial phrases cannot be combined with scalar adjectives; cf. Section 1.3.2.2, sub II.

Example 69
a. * Absoluut/vrijwel goed/klein/ziek is Jan.
  absolutely/almost  good/small/ill  is Jan
b. * Absoluut/vrijwel brandbaar is deze stof.
  absolutely/almost  combustible  is this material
c. * Helemaal/vrijwel bekend met onze gewoontes is Jan.
  completely/almost  familiar with our habits  is Jan

      For completeness’ sake note that the adjective gezond'healthy' can also be used as a scalar adjective, provided that it is the antonym of ongezond'unhealthy'. In this use, gezond cannot be modified by the adverbial phrases absoluut and vrijwel. This is shown in (70).

Example 70
* Absoluut/vrijwel gezond/ongezond is spinazie.
  absolutely/almost  healthy/unhealthy  is spinach
[+]  5.  Scales with two absolute adjectives

The fact that gezond (i.e., the antonym of ziek'ill') is not scalar shows that the placement of an antonym pair of adjectives on a scale is not sufficient to conclude that the adjectives are both scalar. In fact, they can both be absolute. This is the case with the adjectives leeg/vol'empty/full' in (59e); they both typically denote the boundaries of the implied scale. That leeg and vol are not scalar but absolute is clear from the fact that they can be modified by adverbial phrases like helemaal'totally', vrijwel'almost', etc.

Example 71
a. Scale of “fullness"
b. Het glas is helemaal/vrijwel leeg/vol.
  the glass  is totally/almost  empty/full
[+]  B.  Context dependent adjectives—the neutral zone

In the scales in (60), (63) and (64), we have indicated a neutral zone to which neither of the two adjectives is applicable. This zone is often more or lesss fixed for the speaker in question. With some adjectives, however, the neutral zone is more flexible and may be determined by the entity the adjectives are predicated of, or the context in which the adjectives are used. This holds in particular for the measure adjectives, of which some examples are given in (72).

Example 72
a. dik 'thick'
a'. dun 'thin'
b. oud 'old'
b'. jong 'young'
c. groot 'big'
c'. klein 'small'
d. lang 'tall/long'
d'. kort 'short/brief'
e. hoog 'high'
e'. laag 'low'
f. zwaar 'heavy'
f'. licht 'light'
g. breed 'wide'
g'. smal 'narrow'

That the placement of the neutral zone, that is, that the interpretation of the measure adjectives depends on the argument the adjective is predicated of can be demonstrated by means of the examples in (73a) and (73b). Below, we will discuss the examples with the adjective groot, but the discussion is also applicable to klein.

Example 73
a. Deze muis is klein/groot.
  this mouse  is small/big
b. Deze olifant is klein/groot.
  the elephant  is small/big

      Although groot can be predicated of both the noun phrase deze muis'this mouse' and the noun phrase deze olifant'this elephant', it is clear that the two entities these noun phrases refer to cannot be assumed to be of a similar size: the mouse is considerably smaller than the elephant. This is due to the fact that the placement of the neutral zone on the implied scales of size differs. In the case of mice the scale will be expressed in term of centimeters, as in (74a), while in the case of elephants the scale will instead be expressed in meters, as in (74b).

Example 74
a. Scale of size for mice in centimeters:
b. Scale of size for elephants in meters:

This shows that the placement of the neutral zone is at least partly determined by the argument the adjective is predicated of; it indicates the “normal" or “average" size of mice/elephants. In other words, examples such as (73) implicitly introduce a comparison class, namely the class of mice/elephants, which determines the precise position of the neutral zone on the implied scale. Often, a voor-PP can be used to make the comparison class explicit, and clarify the intended neutral zone, as in (75).

Example 75
Jan is groot voor een jongen van zijn leeftijd.
  Jan is big  for a boy  of his age

The comparison class and, hence, the neutral zone are not fully determined by the argument the adjective is predicated of; the context may also play a role. If we are discussing mammals in general, the statement in (76a) is true while the statement in (76b) is false: the comparison class is constituted by mammals, and therefore the neutral zone is determined by the average size of mammals, and Indian Elephants are certainly bigger than that. However, if we discuss the different subspecies of elephants, the statement in (76a) is false while the statement in (76b) is true: the comparison class is constituted by elephants, and the Indian Elephant is small compared to the African Elephant.

Example 76
a. De Indische Olifant is groot.
  the Indian Elephant  is big
b. De Indische Olifant is klein.
  the Indian Elephant  is small
[+]  C.  Subjective/objective adjectives

Although the placement of the neutral zone on the scale implied by the measure adjective depends on extra-linguistic information, the scale itself can be considered objective in the sense that once speakers have established the neutral zone, they can objectively establish whether a certain statement is true or false. The fact that the scale implied by the measure adjectives is objective is also supported by the fact that (in some cases) the precise position on the scale can be indicated by means of nominal measure phrases like twee dagen and twintig meter in (77).

Example 77
a. Dit poesje is twee dagen oud.
  this kitten  is two days  old
b. De weg is twintig meter lang.
  the road  is twenty meters  long

      In the case of adjectives like lelijk/mooi'ugly/beautiful' and saai/boeiend'boring/exciting', on the other hand, establishing the precise position of the relevant entities on the implied scale is a more subjective matter; in fact, it can depend entirely on the language user, which can be emphasized by embedding the adjective under the verb vinden'consider', as in the (a)-examples in (78). Occasionally, the entity whose evaluation is assumed can be syntactically expressed by means of a voor-PP; some examples are given in the (b)-examples.

Example 78
a. Ik vind De Nachtwacht lelijk/mooi.
  consider  The Night Watch  ugly/beautiful
a'. Ik vind Shakespeares dramaʼs saai/boeiend.
  consider  Shakespeareʼs tragedies  boring/exciting
b. Dit gereedschap is handig voor een timmerman.
  this tool  is handy  for a carpenter
  'These tools are handy for a carpenter.'
b'. Dit boek is interessant voor elke taalkundige.
  this book  is of.interest  to every linguist

      The pairs of measure adjectives in (72) can be considered true antonyms. This is clear from the fact that the two (a)-examples in (79) are fully equivalent. However, this equivalence does not seem to hold for the subjective adjectives in the (b)-examples, which suggests that the comparative forms mooier and lelijker are not true but quasi-antonyms.

Example 79
a. Jan is groter dan Marie.
  Jan is bigger than Marie
a'. Marie is kleiner dan Jan.
  Marie is smaller than Jan
b. De Nachtwacht is mooier dan De anatomieles. ⇎
  The Night Watch  is more beautiful than  The Anatomy Lesson
b'. De anatomieles is lelijker dan De Nachtwacht.
  The Anatomy Lesson  is uglier than  The Night Watch

This difference may be related to the following observation. The use of the comparative form of objective adjectives like klein'small' and groot'big' in the (a)-examples of (79) does not necessarily imply that the argument the adjective is predicated of is actually small or big. The use of the comparative form of the subjective adjectives mooi'beautiful' and lelijk'ugly', on the other hand, at least strongly suggest that the argument the adjective is predicated of is indeed beautiful or ugly. This difference between objective and subjective adjectives may be lexically encoded; reasons for assuming this will be given in Subsection F below.
      For completenesssake, it can be observed that the true antonym of mooier is the comparative form minder mooi'less beautiful', as is clear from the fact that the equivalency does hold between (80a) and (80b). The true antonymy relation of course also holds for groter'bigger' and minder groot'less big'.

Example 80
a. De Nachtwacht is mooier dan De anatomieles. ⇔
  The Night Watch  is more beautiful than  The Anatomy Lesson 
b. De anatomieles is minder mooi dan De Nachtwacht.
  The Anatomy Lesson  is less beautiful  than  The Night Watch
[+]  D.  Measure adjectives—the (non)neutral form of antonymous adjectives

The examples in (77) have already shown that the measure adjectives can be modified by means of a nominal measure phrase. However, for each antonym pair in (72), only the adjective in the primeless example can be used. Some examples are given in (81). Observe that the acceptable example in (81a) does not express the fact that the kitten is old; on the contrary, it is quite young, which can be emphasized by using the evaluative particle pas'only'. Therefore, it is clear that the adjective oud has lost the antonymous part of its meaning. The same thing holds for the adjective lang in (81b). Since these adjectives have lost this part of their meaning, oud and lang can be considered as neutral forms of the relevant pairs; the adjectives jong and kort cannot be used in this neutral way.

Example 81
a. Het poesje is (pas) twee dagen oud/%jong.
  the kitten  is only  two days  old/young
b. De weg is (maar) twintig meter lang/%kort.
  the road  is only  twenty meters  long/short

Similar conclusions can be drawn from the interrogative sentences in (82): the neutral form oud/lang gives rise to a perfectly natural question and does not presuppose that the subject of the clause should be characterized as being old/long, whereas the non-neutral form jong/kort gives rise to a marked result and seems to express the presupposition that the kitten is young/the road is short.

Example 82
a. Hoe oud/%jong is het poesje?
  how old/young  is the kitten
b. Hoe lang/%kort is deze weg?
  how long/short  is this road

In this context it is also relevant to observe that only the neutral forms of the measure adjectives can be the input of the morphological rule that derives nouns from adjectives by suffixation with -te. The formation *oudte in (83c) is probably blocked by the existing noun leeftijd'age'. See Section 3.1.2, sub II, for more discussion of measure adjectives.

Example 83
a. breedte 'width'
a'. *smalte
b. dikte 'thickness'
b'. *dunte
c. *oudte 'age'
c'. *jongte
d. lengte 'length'
d'. *kortte
e. hoogte 'height'
e'. #laagte
f. zwaarte 'weight'
f'. *lichtte

      The adjectives in (84) exhibit a behavior similar to the measure adjectives in (82): the primeless examples are unmarked, and do not presuppose that the property denoted by the adjective is applicable; the primed examples, on the other hand, are marked, and strongly suggest that the property denoted by the adjective is applicable.

Example 84
a. Hoe schoon is de keuken?
  how clean  is the kitchen
a'. % Hoe vies is de keuken?
  how dirty  is the kitchen
b. Hoe veilig is die draaimolen?
  how safe  is that merry-go-round
b'. % Hoe onveilig is die draaimolen?
  how unsafe  is that merry-go-round
[+]  E.  Positively/negatively valued adjectives

Often, the subjective adjectives not only imply a subjective scale, but also express a negative or positive evaluation. Of the pair slecht'bad/evil' and goed'good', the first adjective clearly denotes a negatively valued property, whereas the latter denotes a positively valued property. The examples in (85) show that this distinction is also reflected in their modification possibilities: the primeless examples contain negatively valued adjectives, and modification by the elements knap'quite' and flink'quite' is possible; the primed examples, on the other hand, contain positively valued adjectives and modification by knap and flink is excluded.

Example 85
a. knap brutaal/moeilijk/lastig/ongehoorzaam
  quite  cheeky/difficult/troublesome/disobedient
a'. * knap beleefd/makkelijk/eenvoudig/gehoorzaam
  pretty  polite/easy/simple/obedient
b. flink moeilijk/lastig/ongehoorzaam
  quite  difficult/troublesome/disobedient
b'. * flink makkelijk/eenvoudig/gehoorzaam
  quite  easy/simple/obedient

      The examples in (86) show that litotes (the trope in literary and formal language by which one emphasizes a property by means of the negation of its antonym) also requires an adjective denoting a negatively valued property; if the adjective denotes a positively valued property, as in the primed examples, the desired interpretation does not normally arise; a notable exception is colloquial Daʼs niet goed!, in which the deictic force of the demonstrative has bleached; cf. English Thatʼs not good! (Carole Boster, p.c.).

Example 86
a. Dat boek is niet slecht.
  that book is not bad
  'That is very good.'
a'. # Dat boek is niet goed.
   that book  is not good
  Not: 'That is very bad.'
b. Hij is niet lelijk.
  he  is not ugly
  'Heʼs quite handsome.'
b'. # Hij is niet knap.
   he  is not handsome
  Not: 'Heʼs quite ugly.'

The modifier wel'rather', on the other hand, requires an adjective that denotes a positively valued property. This is illustrated in (87). Note that the primed examples are fully acceptable if wel is interpreted as the affirmative marker wel; the two forms differ in that the affirmative marker receives accent, whereas the modifier does not. These uses of niet and wel in (86) and (87) are more extensively discussed in Section 3.3, sub II.

Example 87
a. Jan is wel aardig.
  Jan is wel  kind
  'Jan is rather kind.'
a'. * Jan is wel onaardig.
   Jan is wel  unkind
b. Hij is wel knap.
  he  is wel  handsome
  'Heʼs rather handsome.'
b'. * Hij is wel lelijk.
   he  is wel  ugly

      Occasionally, the modifier is sensitive both to the positive/negative value of the adjective and the syntactic environment. The modifier een beetje'a bit', for example, requires a negatively valued adjective in declarative clauses (or an adjective that does not have an antonym such as verliefd'in love'). In questions and imperatives, on the other hand, this modifier prefers an adjective that denotes a positively valued property.

Example 88
a. Hij is een beetje onaardig/*?aardig.
  he  is  a bit  unkind/kind
b. Is hij een beetje aardig/?onaardig?
  is  he  a bit  kind/unkind
c. Wees een beetje aardig/#onaardig!
  be  a bit  kind/unkind
[+]  F.  Truly antonymous adjectives and the licensing of negative polarity items

This subsection discusses the fact that negative polarity items can be licensed by the subset of antonymous adjectives that were called true antonyms in subsection C above. In order to be able to do that we should first discuss certain logical properties of these adjectives. True antonyms have the defining property that they allow the inference in (89a), in which A and A' represent antonymous adjectives; cf, subsection C. In (89b), we repeat example (79a): if we say that Jan is bigger than Marie, we may conclude that Marie is smaller than Jan, and, similarly, if we claim that Marie is smaller than Jan, we may conclude that Jan is bigger than Marie. This equivalency does not hold for quasi-antonymous adjectives like mooi'beautiful' and lelijk'ugly'; see example (79b) for discussion.

Example 89
True antonyms
a. x is more A than y ⇔ y is more A' than x
b. Jan is groter dan Marie. ⇔ Marie is kleiner dan Jan.
  Jan is bigger than Marie Marie is smaller than Jan

True and quasi-antonymous adjectives are similar in that the implications in (90a) do not hold for either, which is due to the fact that in both cases the implied scale may have a neutral zone. This was already discussed for the quasi-antonymous adjectives slecht'bad' and goed'good' in Subsection A, so we confine ourselves here to giving similar examples for the true antonymous adjectives groot'big' and klein'small'.

Example 90
a. not A ⇏A'; not A' ⇏A
b. Jan is niet groot. ⇏ Jan is klein.
  Jan is not big  Jan is small
b'. Jan is niet klein. ⇏ Jan is groot.
  Jan is not good  Jan is evil

Despite the fact that the implications in (90a) do not hold, we will show in this subsection that for the true antonyms above, the pair not A and A'as well as the pair not A' and A do exhibit certain similarities in semantic behavior, which may be relevant when it comes to the licensing of negative polarity items like ook maar iets'anything'. In order to demonstrate this, we have selected the adjectives in (91). These adjectives were chosen because they may take a clausal complement, which is crucial for our purposes below because negative polarity items like ook maar iets are normally only possible in embedded clauses.

Example 91
a. gemakkelijk 'easy'
a'. moeilijk 'difficult'
b. verstandig 'clever'
b'. onverstandig 'foolish'
c. veilig 'safe'
c'. gevaarlijk 'dangerous'
[+]  1.  Upward and downward entailments

Consider the examples in (92). In the primeless examples, the complement clause refers to a wider set of events than the complement in the primed examples; the addition of an adverb in the latter cases makes the event the complement clause refers to more specific, and hence applicable to a smaller number of situations. For example, there are many occasions in which a problem is solved, but only in a subset of those occasions is the problem solved fast.

Example 92
a. Het is gemakkelijk om dat probleem op te lossen.
  it  is easy  comp  that problem  prt.  to solve
  'Itʼs easy to solve that problem.'
a'. Het is gemakkelijk om dat probleem snel op te lossen.
  it  is easy  comp  that problem  quickly  prt.  to solve
  'Itʼs easy to solve that problem fast.'
b. Het is verstandig om een boek voor Peter te kopen.
  it  is clever  comp  a book  for Peter  to buy
  'Itʼs clever to buy a book for Peter.'
b'. Het is verstandig om hier een boek voor Peter te kopen.
  it  is clever  comp  here  a book  for Peter  to buy
  'Itʼs clever to buy a book for Peter here.'
c. Het is veilig om hier over te steken.
  it  is safe  comp  here  prt.  to cross
  'Itʼs safe to cross the road here.'
c'. Het is veilig om hier met je ogen dicht over te steken.
  it  is safe  comp  here  with your eyes closed  prt.  to cross
  'Itʼs safe to cross the road here with your eyes closed.'

Now, it is important to note that one cannot conclude from the truth of the primeless examples that the primed examples are true as well. However, one could conclude from the truth of the primed examples that the primeless ones are true as well. The environments in (92), in which an expression like snel oplossen'to solve quickly' can be replaced by a more general one like oplossen'to solve' without changing the truth-value of the expression, are called upward entailing.
      The inferences change radically if we replace the adjectives in (92) by their antonyms, as in (93). Now, we may conclude from the truth of the primeless examples that the primed examples are true as well, and not vice versa. The environments in (93), in which an expression like oplossen'to solve' can be replaced by a more specific one like snel oplossen'to solve quickly' without changing the truth-value of the expression, are called downward entailing.

Example 93
a. Het is moeilijk om dat probleem op te lossen.
  it  is difficult  comp  that problem  prt.  to solve
  'Itʼs difficult to solve that problem.'
a'. Het is moeilijk om dat probleem snel op te lossen.
  it  is difficult  comp  that problem  quickly  prt.  to solve
  'Itʼs difficult to solve that problem fast.'
b. Het is onverstandig om een boek voor Peter te kopen.
  it  is foolish  comp  a book  for Peter  to buy
  'Itʼs foolish to buy a book for Peter.'
b'. Het is onverstandig om hier een boek voor Peter te kopen.
  it  is foolish  comp  here  a book  for Peter  to buy
  'Itʼs foolish to buy a book for Peter here.'
c. Het is gevaarlijk om hier over te steken.
  it  is dangerous  comp  here  prt.  to cross
  'Itʼs dangerous to cross the road here.'
c'. Het is gevaarlijk om hier met je ogen dicht over te steken.
  it  is dangerous  comp  here  with your eyes closed  prt.  to cross
  'Itʼs dangerous to cross the road here with your eyes closed.'

From the examples in (92) and (93) we may conclude that the adjectives in the primeless examples of (91) create upward entailing environments, whereas the adjectives in the primed examples of (91) create downward entailing environments. It should be observed that negation is able to change this property into its reverse. If we add the adverb niet'not' to the examples in (92) the environments become downward entailing, and if we add niet to the examples in (93) the environments becomes upward entailing. For example, niet gemakkelijk'not easy' in (94a&a') behaves just like moeilijk'difficult' in (93a&a'), and niet moeilijk'not difficult' in (94b&b') behaves just like gemakkelijk'easy' in (92a&a') in this respect.

Example 94
a. Het is niet gemakkelijk om dat probleem op te lossen.
  it  is not easy  comp  that problem  prt.  to solve
  'It isnʼt easy to solve that problem.'
a'. Het is niet gemakkelijk om dat probleem snel op te lossen.
  it  is not easy  comp  that problem  quickly  prt.  to solve
  'It isnʼt easy to solve that problem fast.'
b. Het is niet moeilijk om dat probleem op te lossen.
  it  is not difficult  comp  that problem  prt.  to solve
  'It isnʼt difficult to solve that problem.'
b'. Het is niet moeilijk om dat probleem snel op te lossen.
  it  is not difficult  comp  that problem  quickly  prt.  to solve
  'It isnʼt difficult to solve that problem fast.'
[+]  2.  Negative Polarity Items

Another respect in which niet gemakkelijk and moeilijk, and niet moeilijk and gemakkelijk behave in a similar way concerns the licensing of negative polarity items like ook maar iets'anything'. These elements are only licensed in downward entailment environments. Therefore, they can occur in contexts like (95), but not in contexts like (96).

Example 95
a. Het is moeilijk/niet gemakkelijk om ook maar iets te zien van de wedstrijd.
  it is difficult/not easy  comp  anything  to see  of the match
  'Itʼs difficult/not easy to see anything of the match.'
b. Het is onverstandig/niet verstandig om er ook maar iets over te zeggen.
  it is foolish/not clever  comp  there  anything  about  to say
  'Itʼs foolish/not clever to say anything about it.'
c. Het is gevaarlijk/niet veilig om ook maar even te aarzelen.
  it  is dangerous/not safe  comp  ook maar  a moment  to hesitate
  'Itʼs dangerous/not safe to hesitate even for a second.'
Example 96
a. * Het is gemakkelijk/niet moeilijk om ook maar iets te zien van de wedstrijd.
  it is easy/not difficult  comp  anything  to see  of the match
b. * Het is verstandig/niet onverstandig om er ook maar iets over te zeggen.
  it is clever/not foolish  comp  there  anything  about  to say
c. * Het is veilig/niet gevaarlijk om ook maar even te aarzelen.
  it is safe/not dangerous  comp  ook maar  a moment  to hesitate

This means that although the phrase not A is not semantically equivalent to A', we may conclude from the data above that in the case of truly antonymous adjectives. the two give rise to the same kind of environment: if A' creates a downward or upward entailment environment, the same thing holds for not A.

[+]  II.  Absolute (non-scalar) adjectives

Not all set-denoting adjectives are scalar. Typical examples of absolute adjectives are dood'dead' and levend'alive'. The two adjectives denote complementary sets of entities that have the absolute property of being dead/alive. That the adjectives are not scalar is clear from the fact that they (normally) cannot be modified by intensifiers like vrij'rather' or zeer'very'. Similarly, comparative/superlative formation is normally excluded.

Example 97
a. % een vrij dode plant
  rather  dead  plant
b. % een zeer levende hond
    a  very  living  dog
a'. % een dodere plant
  more.dead  plant
b'. % een levender hond
   a  more.living  dog
a''. % de doodste plant
  the  most.dead  plant
b''. % de levendste hond
   the  most.living  dog

This does not imply, however, that modification is excluded categorically. Consider the examples in (98). The modifiers in (98a), which we may call approximatives, indicate that the argument that the adjective dood is predicated of has nearly reached the condition that can be denoted by the adjective. The approximatives differ from the intensifiers in (98b) in that one has to conclude from (98a) that the plant is not dead (yet), whereas one must conclude from (98b) that the plant is beautiful. The approximatives in (98a) have the absolute counterpart helemaal'completely' in (98c), which emphasizes that the predicate does apply.

Example 98
a. Die plant is vrijwel/zo goed als dood.
  that plant is almost/as good as  dead 
a'. Die plant is niet dood.
  that plant is not dead
b. Die plant is vrij/zeer mooi.
  that plant is rather/very beautiful 
b'. Die plant is mooi.
  that plant is beautiful
c. Die plant is helemaal dood.
  that plant is completely dead 
c'. Die plant is dood.
  that plant is dead

      The examples in (99) shows that the approximative and absolute modifiers in (98) normally cannot be combined with scalar adjectives.

Example 99
a. * Die plant is vrijwel/zo goed als/helemaal mooi.
  that plant  is almost/as good as/completely  beautiful
b. * Jan is vrijwel/zo goed als/helemaal aardig.
  Jan is almost/as good as/completely  nice

It should be noted, however, that it is not always crystal clear whether we have to classify a certain adjective as absolute or scalar. The adjective vol'full' may be a good example of a case where the distinction is somewhat vague. The examples in (100) show that this adjective can be modified by approximative and absolute adverbs, which suggests that it should be considered an absolute adjective.

Example 100
a. De fles is vrijwel/zo goed als vol.
  the bottle  is almost/as good as  full
b. De fles is helemaal vol.
  the bottle  is completely  full

In the examples in (101), however, the adjective vol can also be modified by intensifiers like vrij'quite' or erg'very', which is a hallmark of scalar adjectives. This paradox may be due to the fact that in everyday practice vol is generally not used in the sense of “100% filled". For example, a cup of coffee is normally vol if it is filled to, say, 90 percent; if it is filled up to the rim, it would actually be called too full. It seems that intensifiers can be used to specify the range between 90 and 100 percent full. This suggests that, although vol is normally used as an absolute adjective, it can also be used as a scalar adjective when we discuss the periphery of the scale.

Example 101
a. Dit kopje is vol.
filled to 90 percent
  this cup  is full
b. Dit kopje is vrij vol.
filled to nearly 90 percent
  this cup  is quite full
c. Dit kopje is erg vol.
filled to more than 90 percent
  this cup  is very full
d. Dit kopje is te vol.
filled to much more than 90 percent
  this cup  is too full
[+]  III.  The distinction between gradable and scalar adjectives

This subsection argues that we should make a distinction between gradable and scalar adjectives. A crucial role in this discussion will be played by absolute adjectives that do not come in antonymous pairs, such as the color adjectives rood'red', geel'yellow', blauw'blue', etc., and adjectives that denote geometrical properties like vierkant'square', rond'round', driehoekig'triangular'. It will be shown that these adjective are gradable but not scalar.
      Gradable adjectives are generally defined as adjectives that can be modified by means of an intensifier like vrij/zeer'rather/very' and undergo comparative and superlative formation, as in (102). These are also typical properties of the class of scalar adjectives; example (58) in Section 1.3.2.2, sub I, has already shown that the intensifiers determine the position of the logical subject of the adjective on the implied scale, and example (107) below will show that the comparative/superlative forms determine the relative position of the compared entities on the implied scale.

Example 102
a. Deze hond is vrij/zeer intelligent.
  this dog  is rather/very intelligent
a'. Deze hond is intelligenter/het intelligentst.
  this dog  is more/the most intelligent
b. Deze ballon is vrij/zeer groot.
  this balloon  is rather/very big
b'. Deze ballon is groter/het grootst.
  this balloon  is bigger/the biggest

However, this does not necessarily imply that the terms scalar and gradable adjectives are equivalent. Consider the examples in (103) that involve the geometrical adjective rond'round'. Just like the adjective dood'dead', the adjective rond'round' can be modified by the approximate adverb vrijwel'almost' and the absolute adverb helemaal'perfectly', from which we may conclude that rond is an absolute adjective; cf. the discussion of (98).

Example 103
a. De tafel is vrijwel rond.
  the table  is almost  round
  'The table is nearly perfectly round.'
b. De tafel is helemaal rond.
  the table  is perfectly  round
  'The table is perfectly round.'

However, example (104a) shows that the adverbs vrij'rather' and zeer'very' can also be used. If this is indeed a defining property of gradable adjectives, we have to conclude that rond is gradable. The same thing would follow from (104b), which shows that rond is eligible for comparative and superlative formation. Consequently, if the terms scalar and gradable were identical, we would end up with a contradiction: the adjective rond would then be both scalar and absolute (non-scalar).

Example 104
a. Jans gezicht is vrij/zeer rond.
  Janʼs face  is rather/very  round
b. Jans gezicht is ronder/het rondst.
  Janʼs face  is rounder/the roundest

      If one were to insist on maintaining that the notions scalar and gradable are the same, one could argue that, despite appearances, we are actually not dealing with intensifiers in (104a). As we have seen in (58c), intensifiers are used to specify the place on the (range of the) scale implied by the scalar adjective. From this it follows that vrij/zeer A implies that A holds. This is shown in (105a) for example (102a). However, this implication does not hold for example (104a); on the contrary, the implication is that the geometrical property denoted by rond does nothold perfectly.

Example 105
a. Deze hond is vrij/zeer intelligent.
  this dog  is rather/very  intelligent
a'. Deze hond is intelligent.
  this dog  is intelligent
b. Jans gezicht is vrij/zeer rond.
  Janʼs face  is rather/very  round 
b'. Jans gezicht is niet rond.
  Janʼs face  is not round

In this respect, the adverbs vrij and zeer in (105b) behave like the approximatives discussed in Section 1.3.2.2, sub II; they just indicate that the shape of Janʼs face resembles a round shape. The adverb vrij indicates that Janʼs face just vaguely resembles a round shape, and zeer indicates that it comes close to being round. In other words, there is no scale of roundness implied, but we are dealing with several sets that properly include each other as indicated in (106). In order to avoid confusion, note that the circles in this graph indicate sets, and do not represent the geometrical shapes.

Example 106

      The discussion above has shown that, as far as the intensifiers are concerned, we can in principle maintain the assumption that the notions scalar and gradable are interchangeable, provided that we assume that vrij and zeer can be used both as intensifying and as approximative adverbs. If we take the comparative and superlative forms in (104b) into consideration, things become more intricate, though. Consider the examples in (107).

Example 107
a. Jan is groter dan Marie. ⇏ Jan is groot/niet groot.
  Jan is bigger than Marie  Jan is big/not big
b. De eettafel is ronder dan de salontafel. ⇏ De eettafel is rond/niet rond.
  the dining table  is rounder  than the coffee table the dining table  is round/not round

Example (107) with the scalar adjective groot'big' implies neither that Jan is big, nor that he is small: as long as Marie is placed to the left of Jan on the scale of size, the statement in (107a) is true. In other words, (107a) applies to all situations indicated in (108).

Example 108
Scale of size:

Similarly, example (107b) provides no clue about whether the dining table is round or not (although it does imply that the coffee table is not round). This can be illustrated by means of the figure in (106). If the dining table is part of the set denoted by the adjective rond'round', and the coffee table is only included in the larger set denoted by zeer rond, the sentence in (107b) is true. But this is also the case if the dining table is part of the set denoted by zeer rond, and the coffee table is part of the set denoted by vrij rond. Consequently, no inference can be made on the basis of (107b) concerning the shape of the dining table.
      If one still wishes to maintain that the terms scalar and gradable are the same, one has to assume that there are two types of comparatives (and superlatives, but we will not discuss this here), just as in the case of the adverbs vrij and zeer. Since we have just seen that we cannot appeal to the logical implications to determine whether we are dealing with a gradable adjective or not, we have no other option than to claim that we are dealing with gradable adjectives if the comparison can be expressed by means of a scale. However, this would run into problems with absolute adjectives like leeg'empty' and vol'full'. As was discussed in Section 1.3.2.2, sub I, these adjectives denote the boundaries of the scale in (71), repeated here as (109).

Example 109
Scale of “fullness"

Nevertheless, an example such as (110a) can be represented as in (110b), in which the comparison is represented by means of a scale. As a result, we would have to conclude that the adjectives leeg and vol are gradable, contrary to fact.

Example 110
a. Mijn fles is leger dan de jouwe.
  my bottle  is emptier  than the yours
  'My bottle is emptier than yours.'
b. Scale of “fullness"

      The discussion above has shown that identification of the notions scalar and gradable gives rise to terminological confusion. Therefore, we will from now on use the opposition between scalar and absolute adjectives. The term gradable adjective will be used in its traditional sense for any adjective that can be combined with approximative adverbs such as vrij'rather' or zeer'very', and undergo comparative/superlative formation.

[+]  IV.  Stage/individual-level adjectives

This subsection discusses a semantic distinction that is independent of the distinction between scalar and absolute adjectives. Some adjectives, such as boos'angry' or ziek'ill', express a transitory (stage-level) property of the entity they modify, whereas others, such as intelligent, denote a more permanent (individual-level) property. This distinction seems to be syntactically relevant in several respects. The stage-level predicates, for instance, (i) can be used in expletive, resultative and absolute met-constructions like (111a-c), (ii) allow the copula worden'to become', and (iii) can be combined with a time adverb such as vandaag; these patterns lead to odd results in the case of individual-level adjectives.

Example 111
a. Er is iemand ziek/??intelligent.
  there  is  someone  ill/intelligent
b. De spaghetti maakte Jan ziek/??intelligent.
  the spaghetti  made  Jan  ill/intelligent
c. [Met Jan ziek/??intelligent] kan de vergadering niet doorgaan.
  with Jan ill/intelligent  can the meeting  not  take.place
d. Jan wordt ziek/*?intelligent.
  Jan becomes  ill/intelligent
e. Jan is vandaag ziek/*intelligent.
  Jan is today  ill/intelligent

      The examples in (112) show that some individual-level adjectives are derived from (simple) stage-level adjectives by means of affixation with -(e)lijk. This is clear from the fact that these adjectives seem to denote a defining property of the modified noun phrase.

Example 112
Stage-level
Individual-level
a. Jan is arm. 'Jan is poor'
a'. Jan is armelijk.
b. Jan is bang. 'Jan is afraid'
b'. Jan is bangelijk.
c. Jan is ziek. 'Jan is ill'
c'. Jan is ziekelijk.
d. Jan is zwak. 'Jan is feeble'
d'. Jan is zwakkelijk.

Furthermore, the examples in (113) show that the derived adjectives in the primed examples behave just like the adjective intelligent in (111).

Example 113
a. ?? Er is iemand ziekelijk.
b. ?? De spaghetti maakte Jan ziekelijk.
c. ?? [met Jan ziekelijk] kan de vergadering niet doorgaan
d. *? Jan wordt ziekelijk.
e. *? Jan is vandaag ziekelijk.

Note that affixation with - elijk occasionally gives rise to a change in the semantic selection properties of the adjective: whereas the simple adjective lief'sweet' typically denotes a property of animate beings, the derived adjective liefelijk is applied to non-animate objects like houses, landscapes or paintings.

Example 114
a. Jan/%Het huis is lief.
  Jan/the house  is sweet
b. Het huis/%Jan is liefelijk.
  the house/Jan  is charming

Note also that not all adjectives derived by - elijk are individual-level adjectives; this affix also derives adjectives that are used as adverbs. An example is the adjective rijkelijk in (115), which is mainly used as a kind of degree adverb; it sounds rather marked if used in attributive position (although many instances of this use can be found on the internet) and gives rise to a severely degraded result if used in predicative position. We refer the reader to Chapter 8 for more examples of derived adjectives that are mainly used as adverbs.

Example 115
a. ? een rijkelijke maaltijd
  rich  meal
b. * De maaltijd was rijkelijk.
c. De tafel was rijkelijk beladen met heerlijke gerechten.
  the table  was richly loaded  with lovely dishes

      The stage/individual-level reading need not be an inherent property of the adjective itself, but can be determined by the context or by our knowledge of reality. Consider the primeless examples in (116). Given the fact that the adverb vandaag'today' can be added to the copular construction in (116a), the adjective grappig'funny' clearly expresses a stage-level property in this example. In (116b), on the other hand, addition of vandaag gives rise to an odd result, apparently because erg grappig'very funny' is not considered to be a transitory property of books; after all, books do not change in this respect over the course of time. Accordingly, the adjective grappig can be used in an expletive copular construction if the subject is +animate but not if it is -animate, as is demonstrated in the primed examples in (116).

Example 116
a. Jan was vandaag erg grappig.
  Jan was today  very funny
a'. Er was iemand erg grappig (vandaag).
  there  was someone  very funny   today
b. % Het boek Bezorgde ouders van Gerard Reve was vandaag erg grappig.
  the book  Worried Parents  by Gerard Reve  was today  very funny
b'. % Er was een boek erg grappig (vandaag).
  there  was a book  very funny   today

For completeness’ sake, note that example (117) is perfectly acceptable, provided that we are discussing the episode of the comedy series Mr. Bean that was broadcast today. This does not imply, however, that being funny is a transitory property of a comedy; the adverbial phrase vandaag'today' functions to identify a certain episode, and does not imply that we are dealing with a stage-level property; being funny can simply be seen as an individual-level property of the intended episode.

Example 117
De komedie Mr. Bean was vandaag erg grappig.
  the comedy Mr. Bean  was today  very funny
'Todayʼs episode of Mr. Bean was very funny.'
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