Ambiguous adjectives in French: the case of “gros” when combined with deverbal nouns

Lucas Tual


In this paper, I analysed the interaction between the French adjective “gros” and -eur deverbal nouns. This adjective gives rise to a preferred non-intersective reading when it is in a prenominal position, but only an intersective reading when it appears after the noun. I claim that it is necessary to take into account both the semantics of the adjective and the semantics of the noun to account for the ambiguity present at the DP-level (a “blame both” analysis). An abstract operator, eur, is always present within deverbal nouns such as “fumeur” (“smoker”), and is partially responsible for the interpretation of the DP: if the adjective is within the scope of this operator, the DP will assume a non-intersective reading, whereas when it is outside of its scope, the DP bears an intersective interpretation. The adjective “gros” itself actually has two semantic values: one modifies the event argument present in deverbal nouns, and the other modifies the individual argument of the noun (the agent of the verbal root).


adjectives, ambiguity, deverbal nouns, event semantics

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Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts
(Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani) 

Print ISSN: 0024-3922
Online ISSN: 2350-420X