A lot of hatred and a ton of desire: intensity in the mereology of mental states

  • Robert PasternakEmail author


Certain measurement-related constructions impose a requirement that the measure function used track the part-whole structure of the domain of measurement, so that a given entity or eventuality must have a larger measurement in the chosen dimension than any of its salient proper parts. I provide evidence from English and Chinese that these constructions can be used to measure the intensity of mental states like hatred and love, indicating that in the natural language ontology of such states, intensity correlates with part-whole structure. A natural language metaphysics of psychological intensity meeting this requirement is then developed and integrated into the semantics. Further complications arise when looking at attitudes like want, wish, and regret, which also permit measurements of intensity in the relevant constructions. To account for such attitudes, the ontology and semantics are then enriched in a way that integrates ordering and quantification over possible worlds into the part-whole structure of attitude states, so that even in these more complicated cases, the constructions at hand have a unified compositional semantics.


Mental states Attitudes Measurement Event semantics Mereology Natural language metaphysics Comparatives Monotonicity 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz-Center for General Linguistics (ZAS)BerlinGermany

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