Comparing conventions

Semantics and Linguistic Theory 30:294-313 (2020)
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We offer a novel account of metalinguistic comparatives, such as 'Al is more wise than clever'. On our view, metalinguistic comparatives express comparative commitments to conventions. Thus, 'Al is more wise than clever' expresses that the speaker has a stronger commitment to a convention on which Al is wise than to a convention on which she is clever. This view avoids problems facing previous approaches to metalinguistic comparatives. It also fits within a broader framework—independently motivated by metalinguistic negotiations and convention-shiftingexpressions— that gives linguistic conventions a role in the semantics.

Author Profiles

Alexander W. Kocurek
Cornell University
Rachel Etta Rudolph
Auburn University


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