Rutland viva-ed

Posted on November 17, 2021 by



Congratulations to Colin Rutland on passing his viva voce!

Colin’s dissertation is titled “The lexical semantics of gradable nouns in English”. It provides a revised explanation of the meaning of potentially ambiguous adnominally modified noun phrases like “big smoker” and “complete idiot” using degree semantics and the theory of kinds. Colin explored the grammar of nominal gradability in English, engaging with key prior research, showing through sophisticated corpus searches that it was based on a somewhat idealised empirical base, and then developing a theory based on a better understanding of the empirical landscape.

The research was supervised by Andrew Koontz-Garboden and Martina Faller, with John Payne as the independent reviewer. The PhD examiners were Louise McNally (Pompeu Fabra) and Vera Hohaus.


Colin came to linguistics after spending over 30 years as a software developer, working on projects including the optical mail sorting system used by the US Postal Service, the painting robots that spray Mercedes-Benz cars, and the online BBC shop. Now the PhD is done, Colin’s plan is to spend more quality time with his wife and he also bought himself a flute as a new challenge, although sadly this will not help address the vacancies in Vera’s string quartet.

Featured image was taken at the viva. Left-to-right: Vera, Louise McNally, Colin, Andrew and Martina