Degree modifiers: A new perspective on their semantics and the role of stress in it
This paper focuses on the meaning of degree modifiers such as slightly and completely, when they are either more prosodically prominent than the scalar adjective they modify or less so. Thus, one challenge is to explain the meaning, function and distribution of these modifiers. A second challenge is to explain the way accentuation (prosodic prominence vs. non-prominence) affects their meanings. The paper argues that the sensitivity of weak modifiers such as slightly to the type of membership norm of the modified adjective poses a challenge to semantic analyses of these modifiers in terms of quantification, scale-structure or norm-shifting (section 1.1), and suggests, instead, that these modifiers trigger granularity shifting (section 1.2). Two analyses of the role of accentuation in modifiers are then discussed (sections 1.3-1.4). Lastly, the paper presents an experiment that appears to support the granularity shifting account and a compatible treatment of prosodic prominence as generating local intensification of the meaning of the accented word (sections 2-3).