Scalarity on the menu

From Roey Gafter on Facebook a few days ago, going Korean at the Flohmarkt (flea market) am Mauerpark, Berlin:

A little exercise in scalarity, in this case with respect to spiciness (German adjective scharf ‘sharp, spicy’, English adjective spicy, alternatively hot).

Roey was enjoying spicy hotness in Germany. Back home, he’s a lecturer in the Hebrew language department at Ben-Gurion Univ. in Israel, where he went after finishing a PhD in linguistics at Stanford in 2014 (with a dissertation on sociophonetic variation in Israeli Hebrew).

Scalarity is a central concept in semantics, where it’s obviously significant in the analysis of (most) adjectives and adverbs, but also figures in the analysis of many nouns, verbs, and adpositions.

The scales are quasi-continuous (allowing for comparison along the scale: X is spicier than Y, Y is less spicy than X), but often associated with sets of lexical items along the scale: in the Korean menu case, with, as modifiers of spicy:  not / nicht [at one extreme of the scale], medium / mittel, German / deutsch, Korean / koreanisch. The suggestion is that Korean spicy is as hot as it gets.

From Wikipedia:

The Scoville scale is a measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers — or other spicy foods as reported in Scoville heat units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration… The scale [devised in 1912] is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville.

… Unlike methods based on high-performance liquid chromatography, the Scoville scale is a subjective measurement dependent on the capsaicin sensitivity of testers and so is not a precise or accurate method to measure capsaicinoid concentration.

SHUs and capsicum peppers, in a table:

855,000 – 2,480,000: Dragon’s Breath Carolina Reaper, Komodo Dragon Chili Pepper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Naga Viper pepper, Infinity Chilli, Naga Morich, Bhut jolokia (ghost pepper), Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper, Bedfordshire Super Naga, Spanish Naga Chili

350,000 – 580,000: Red Savina habanero

100,000 – 350,000: Habanero chili, Scotch bonnet pepper, Datil pepper, Rocoto, Madame Jeanette, Peruvian White Habanero, Jamaican hot pepper, Fatalii Wiri Wiri, Bird’s eye chili

50,000 – 100,000: Malagueta pepper, Chiltepin pepper, Piri piri, Pequin pepper, Siling Labuyo, Capsicum Apache

30,000 – 50,000: Guntur chilli, Cayenne pepper, Ají pepper, Tabasco pepper, Capsicum chinense

10,000 – 30,000: Byadgi chilli, Serrano pepper, Peter pepper, Chile de árbol, Aleppo pepper, Cheongyang chili pepper, Peperoncino

3,500 – 10,000: Guajillo pepper, ‘Fresno Chili’ pepper, Jalapeño, wax (e.g. Hungarian wax pepper)

1,000 – 3,500: Anaheim pepper, Pasilla pepper, Peppadew, poblano (or ancho), Poblano verde, Rocotillo pepper, Espelette pepper

100 – 1,000: Banana pepper, Cubanelle, paprika, Pimento

0: Bell pepper

2 Responses to “Scalarity on the menu”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on Facebook:

    At work we classify desserts as Chinese sweet, European sweet, American sweet, and Indian sweet (that’s ordered from least sweet to most sweet).

  2. astraya Says:

    The Korean reads: 1 soy sauce 2 less spicy 3 spicy 4 very spicy. It does not say ‘German’ and ‘Korean’.

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