Volume 26
Graduate Working Papers

Something Funny about English: The Post-Indefinite Pronoun Modification Construction

Rebecca Lee
University of Colorado Boulder

Published 2022-08-30


  • Construction Grammar,
  • Adjectives,
  • Construal,
  • Social Meaning

How to Cite

Lee, R. (2022). Something Funny about English: The Post-Indefinite Pronoun Modification Construction. Colorado Research in Linguistics, 26. Retrieved from https://journals.colorado.edu/index.php/cril/article/view/1573


This paper examines the “Post-Indefinite Pronoun Modification” (PIPM) construction in English, exemplified by something funny and nothing unusual.  Some have compared post-indefinite pronoun modification to post-nominal modification (Kishimoto 2000, Larson & Marušič 2004, Wu 2021), but I argue that this pattern is a separate construction, as the adjectives in PIPM only follow indefinite pronouns, not nouns, and have an individual-level (intrinsic) semantic construal while postnominal modification has a stage-level (temporary/episodic) semantic construal.  PIPM is a construction (Goldberg 1995, Michaelis 2012) that minimally contains two slots, an indefinite pronoun or quantified thing and an evaluative adjective.  In this paper I compare PIPM to a class of “restricted access” adjectives that have been lumped with them in previous analyses, such as navigable, visible, possible, and available, which can occur after lexical nouns.  I show that PIPM has a specific semantic interpretation involving social evaluation that distinguishes it from other modification constructions.  PIPM signifies an indefinite referent out of a construed category of situations prototypically evaluated as the adjective in question, and therefore can play into social stereotypes and the construction of social meaning.