[developers] MOD value in predicative only adjectives

Dan Flickinger danf at stanford.edu
Fri Apr 25 01:55:27 CEST 2014

I'm not quite sure, Emily, what you mean by "potentially attributive".  There are adjectives like "mere" that can only appear prenominally, and it is this positional ability that I associate with "attributive" adjectives.  The other common places for adjectives are either as postnominal modifiers, or in the copula construction, and both of these I take to be characteristic of "predicative" adjectives.  Maybe I'm overlooking some other context in which an adjective like "mere" could occur, but I don't see it.  Hence the property [PRD -] exactly means "I only appear as a prenominal modifier" (equivalent to "I am an attributive adjective"), and [PRD +] means "I do not appear as a prenominal modifier, but I can (potentially) appear either postnominally, or with a copula" (equivalent to "I am a predicative adjective").  Adjectives like "afraid" are lexically constrained to be [PRD +].  Most adjectives are underspecified for PRD, and hence can behave as either attributive or predicative.  The ERG lexicon includes a large set of lexical entries of the attributive-adjective type, but the great majority of these are hyphenated phrases treated as multi-words (a kind of grammar hack), or are words like "downstream" that also have a predicative entry which might also serve as a VP-modifier, so I divide their work into "attribute adjective" and "lexical PP" (where PPs can only be post-head or appear with the copula).  Some other `true' attributives include "everyday", "foster", "future", "inner", "kindred", "lone", "mock", "other", "overall", "teenage", "utter", and maybe "veritable".  Some true "predicative-only" adjectives include "a-" guys like "abed", "afraid", "ablaze", etc., but also "galore" (probably not with copula), "so" meaning "true" as in "that is so", maybe "ready" meaning "prepared", where "a ready smile" has a different sense, and probaby "well" meaning "healthy".

 - Dan

----- Original Message -----
From: "Emily M. Bender" <ebender at uw.edu>
To: "Dan Flickinger" <danf at stanford.edu>
Cc: "Woodley Packard" <sweaglesw at sweaglesw.org>, "developers" <developers at delph-in.net>, "T.J. Trimble" <trimblet at me.com>
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 4:08:44 PM
Subject: Re: [developers] MOD value in predicative only adjectives

Thanks for the clarification Dan.  I'm a bit puzzled about the distinction
that PRD +/- marks then.  PRD - apparently doesn't mean "can't be
attributive" (which is what we were taking it to mean) but rather "can't be
a pre-nominal modifier".  Do you think that all adjectives must be
potentially attributive, just not necessarily pre-nominally?

(I don't have any examples of non-attributves off the top of my head.  I'm
looking here for the counter part to "mere", which is attributive-only.)


On Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 3:50 PM, Dan Flickinger <danf at stanford.edu> wrote:

> Hi T.J. (and Woodley) -
> As Woodley notes, there are two contexts in which predicative adjectives
> can appear:
> (1) in copula constructions as in |the ships are afloat|
> (2) as postnominal modifiers as in |the ships afloat reappeared|
> While you're right that the MOD value is unneeded for the copula use, that
> non-empty value is necessary for the postnominal use, since the ERG
> combines "ships" with "afloat" using a head-modifier construction.  Hence
> the boolean PRD feature is used to distinguish attributive from predicative
> adjectives, and not the MOD value.
> Woodley's example |the dogs awake arise| might sound awkward, but |anyone
> awake at that hour must be crazy| is impeccable, suggesting that there is a
> "heaviness" element involved in the acceptability of single-word
> post-nominal adjectives, and hence maybe something about information
> structure is at play.  However, even the single-word ones can sound fine:
>  |the only rooms available are doubles|
>  |the first person awake was the old man|
> As for Woodley's |I found the dogs awake|, this has several readings which
> may obscure the issue of postnominal modification -- one with the
> three-argument "find" as in |I found him (to be) amusing|, and one with
> transitive "find" and a "depictive" adjective, as in |I found the keys
> (while I was) blindfolded|.  Perhaps more to the immediate point is an
> example like |I fed the children awake at dawn an early breakfast|.  The
> awkwardness of |I fed the children awake an early breakfast| is, on my
> current view, not an issue of grammaticality, but something (mysterious) to
> do with pragmatics.
>  Dan
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Woodley Packard" <sweaglesw at sweaglesw.org>
> To: "T.J. Trimble" <trimblet at me.com>
> Cc: developers at delph-in.net
> Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 2:16:32 PM
> Subject: Re: [developers] MOD value in predicative only adjectives
> Interesting question, T.J.; I would also like to know the answer to this
> one.  One side effect seems to be the prediction that the following string
> is grammatical:
> The dogs awake arise.
> i.e. the predicative-only adjective "awake" is allowed to modify
> post-nominally.  To me this is a surprising prediction; but maybe those on
> the list with more flexible minds won't have an issue with it.  Other
> constructions such as "I found the dogs awake." get their own analysis,
> with the "awake" predicate a scopal argument of "find," so they can't be
> the explanation here.
> -Woodley
> On Apr 24, 2014, at 1:57 PM, "T.J. Trimble" <trimblet at me.com> wrote:
> > So, two related questions about the ERG or about these sort of
> constructions in other grammars/languages:
> >
> > 1) Are there any examples of the MOD value of these predicative only
> adjectives being utilized?
> >
> > 2) Is there any compelling reason to use PRD +/– to constrain this
> instead of MOD < >?

Emily M. Bender
Associate Professor
Department of Linguistics
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