. . . times lower than . . .

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 5 15:31:17 UTC 2007

At 7:57 AM -0700 9/5/07, Laurence Urdang wrote:
>Kelvin, Celsius, Fahrenheit have nothing to do with any aspect of this issue.
>   I do, however, see a difference between, "twice as cold" when the
>temperatures, regardless of scale, are -4 and -2 and when the
>temperatures, regardless of scale, are +4 and +2: the former works
>arithmetically; the latter is arithmetical nonsense.
>   I can see no problem talking about bigger/smaller, hotter/colder,
>etc., for such statements make no sense at all unless there is a
>referent scale of some sort in which numbers can be larger or
>smaller.  That statement works for things like temperature, but not
>all things.  E.g., "That building is twice [or half] as tall as this
>one" is okay, but "That building is twice as short as this one" is
>   In sum, the focus is on the word "times" (and other words or
>phrases that are its equivalent, like "twice" and "thrice"), which
>refers to an increase, not a decrease.  That is why "twice as big"
>makes sense and "twice as small" makes no sense.

If that were the whole story, it's not clear why "half", "a third",
etc., which yield decreases rather than increases, also work with the
unmarked/positive/salient member of the opposition, as previously
noted (half as long/wide) but not the negative/marked member (*half
as short/narrow)?  I don't think it's the meaning of "times" that's
the problem here, but the scalar values themselves and the markedness
dimension (cf. "2 inches long/*short", 4 feel tall/*short, 40 years


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