Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Date of Award


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Barbara H. Partee

Second Advisor

Emmon Bach

Third Advisor

Terrence Parsons

Subject Categories



Capturing the Adjective presents a formal, Montague Grammar treatment of an intuitively accessible distinction among adjectives. Many adjective meanings are computed relative to the properties corresponding to the common nouns they modify, but adjectives may also be absolute modifiers of individuals. Marya is a beautiful dancer may mean either that Marya is beautiful as a dancer – she dances beautifully (relative) or that Marya herself is beautiful (absolute).

The dissertation documents the relative/absolute distinction in Russian (where it is morphologically marked as long versus short) and in English (where it is not so marked, and some adjectives are exclusively relative or absolute), and presents a Montague treatment of adjectives in both languages. Translating the two kinds of adjective as two different Montague syntactic-semantic types, CN/CNs, with automatically predicted property-modifying semantics, and t///e’s, by definition simple one-place predicates, allows us to explain a great deal of puzzling behavior. (Measure adjectives like tall are shown to be special cases of t///e’s.)

Montague analyses of adjectives in English and Russian lead to the conclusion that the relationship between the traditional category of adjective and the Montague types varies across languages. The final chapter includes a section on the Cameroonian language Ngamambo, thought to have very few adjectives. It is shown that, while Ngamambo has few relative, CN/CN adjectives, it has many absolute ones, not related to the relative ones. These absolute ones exhibit verblike syntax consistent with the t///e category.


Included in

Linguistics Commons