The Interpretation of Frequency Adjectives


What I have attempted to show in the foregoing is that: (1) For any frequency adjective f, there is an element of meaning common to both the adverbial and the generic usage of f; this is a function f’ from propositions to truth-values such that f’(φ)’ is true at an interval i iff φ’ is true at subintervals of i distributed through i in a certain way. (2) In an adverbial use of f, f’ functions like the corresponding frequency adverb. (3) In a generic use of f, f’ quantifies the times intervals which a specified object is realized by some stage. (4) In their adverbial usage, frequency adjectives are not regular attributive adjectives at the level at which interpretation takes place, but are perhaps determiners. And (5) in their generic usage, frequency adjectives are adjectives at the level at which interpretation takes place. More generally, I hope to have suggested something of the range of uses to which frequency is put in natural language. That we effortlessly grasp what is meants by Monday, the Columbus Dispatch, autumn, the Today Show, and so on, demonstrates our fluency in interpreting certain sequences of objects, events, or states of affairs as sequences of values of some function cycling on a time-axis. Much more must ultimately be told about the psychological and anthropological significance of frequency.

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