A semantic comparison of hari in Sinhala with very in English


  • Dr. Tharanga Weerasooriya Senior Lecturer Department of English and Linguistics University of Sri Jayewardenepura




semantics, adjectives, degree adverbs, modifiers, scale structure


Interface between scalarity and degree modification of adjectives in natural languages instigates a
cross linguistic analysis of them to examine how they interact with each other within and across
languages. This paper, thus, attempts to conduct a semantic analysis of the Sinhala degree modifiers
hari and harima in comparison to very in English and addresses the questions; whether harima in
Sinhala requires a lexical denotation different from hari in Sinhala or very in English, and how we can
account for the incongruity of hari with closed scale adjectives in Sinhala as opposed to the
behaviour of its counterpart in English. The analysis, while referring to seminal papers on the topic,
basically builds on Heim’s (2000) and Kennedy & McNally’s (2005) analysis of degree modifiers and
scale structure. In conclusion, given its semantic properties, a different lexical denotation for
[[harima]], which is meant to be cross linguistically applicable to “very very” in English, is proposed.