Access to the full content is only available to members of institutions that have purchased access. If you belong to such an institution, please log in or find out more about how to order.



DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-X007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Adverbs are so named from their role in modifying verbs and other non-nominal expressions. For example, in ‘John ran slowly’, the adverb ‘slowly’ modifies ‘ran’ by characterizing the manner of John’s running. The debate on the semantic contribution of adverbs centres on two approaches. On the first approach, adverbs are understood as predicate operators: for example, in ‘John ran slowly’, ‘ran’ would be taken to be a predicate and ‘slowly’ an operator affecting its meaning. Working this out in detail requires the resources of higher-order logic. On the second approach, adverbs are understood as predicates of ‘objects’ such as events and states, reference to which is revealed in logical form. For example, ‘John ran slowly’ would be construed along the lines of ‘there was a running by John and it was slow’, in which the adverb ‘slowly’ has become a predicate ‘slow’ applied to the event that was John’s running.

Since adverbs are exclusively modifiers, they are classed among the syncategorematic words of terminist logic, the investigation of which carried the subject forward from Aristotle in the thirteenth century. (The contrasting ‘categoremata’ – grammatical subjects and predicates – are those words which have meaning independently.) They are of contemporary interest for philosophical logic and semantic theory, because particular accounts of them carry implications for the nature of combinatorial semantics and language understanding, and for ontology.

Citing this article:
Higginbotham, James. Adverbs, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-X007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

Related Searches


Related Articles