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Not Known: Anonymous, Unknown or Non-known? A pilot test on the interpretation of negated absolute adjectives in Romanian

Abstract : Absolute adjectives (open/closed), in contrast with relative adjectives (tall/short), are said to behave symmetrically, the negation of one form entailing the assertion of the other. However, Paradis and Willners (2006) show that absolute adjectives behave rather asymmetrically when negated. This paper investigates the profiles of absolute adjectives in relation to negation in Romanian. Based on the assumption that the weaker sentential negation nu A 'not A' may be used as a substitute for a stronger option, a judgement test was designed, in which the interpretation of nu A 'not A' (not healthy) is tested against the affixal negation neA 'unA' (unhealthy) and non-A (non-healthy) and the lexical antonym B (ill). This may prove useful as the negative affixes and polar antonyms have different encodings, pointing to different places on the scale. While nu 'not' usually denotes the entire negative part of the scale, the antonym B denotes the absolute end of the scale and ne-'un-' usually gives rise to scalar negative compounds, denoting an intermediate position on the scale. The results confirm the asymmetric behaviour, the profiles of the adjectives showing different degrees of scalarity, displayed on a continuum ranging from having no scaling potential to having a strong or weak relative-like interpretation. Accordingly, three main categories of adjectives have emerged: absolute, relative-like and adjectives that can be either absolute or relative. In sum, the results show variation among the absolute adjectives as a class but also inside the mentioned subclasses. Furthermore, the adjectives do not seem to cluster in pairs but rather independently. Although only a few negative compounds are lexical-ized, the participants have supplied the non-lexicalised compounds in order to fill in the gap between nu A 'not A' and the polar opposite B.
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Elena Albu. Not Known: Anonymous, Unknown or Non-known? A pilot test on the interpretation of negated absolute adjectives in Romanian. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, Ubiquity Press, 2020, 5 (1), pp.7. ⟨10.5334/gjgl.666⟩. ⟨halshs-02908464⟩

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