Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Marcel den Dikken

Subject Categories



adjectives; adnominal; interface; non-intersectivity; semantics; syntax


Natural language has long been observed to be rife with apparently 'non-intersective' modification constructions (false teeth, huge flea, heavy smoker, etc.), whose apparent non-compositionality poses difficulties for formally-articulated theories of language. Bolinger's (1967) demonstration of the extent and significance of the issue ushered in several lines of investigation, first in semantics (most notably Kamp 1975, Siegel 1976, Partee 2009), but more recently in syntax as well, with the insights of Larson (1998) and Bouchard (2002) informing approaches to the nominal domain such as that in Cinque (2010). However, 'semantics-only' accounts of non-intersectivity phenomena have limited explanatory capacity given the clear sensitivity of syntax to intersectivity, and recent syntactic proposals leave many questions about non-intersectivity largely unresolved, particularly the implications of non-intersective adnominal modification (NIAM) for the internal structure of the Determiner Phrase (DP), and for fundamental conceptions of category and predication.

This thesis articulates the alignment of NIAM intepretation patterns based on an enriched typology of both adjectives and nouns. In particular, it exploits non-lexicalist approaches to syntax--the 'late insertion' approach of Distributed Morphology (Halle & Marantz 1993, 1994)--as well as non-directional predication structures (den Dikken 2006) to develop an understanding of interpretation and distribution patterns of English NIAM structures which elude explanation in simpler, 'bivalent' approaches to non-intersectivity. By outlining analyses for reference examples from a wide range of NIAM types, it demonstrates the potential for this line of analysis to capture putative 'non-intersectivity' intersectively, and to develop a unified understanding of predication and modification.

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