Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1–38

Parasitic degree phrases


DOI: 10.1007/s11050-010-9061-7

Cite this article as:
Nissenbaum, J. & Schwarz, B. Nat Lang Semantics (2011) 19: 1. doi:10.1007/s11050-010-9061-7


This paper investigates gaps in degree phrases with too, as in John is too rich [for the monastery to hire ___ ]. We present two curious restrictions on such gapped degree phrases. First, the gaps must ordinarily be anteceded by the subject of the associated gradable adjective. Second, when embedded under intensional verbs, gapped degree phrases are ordinarily restricted to surface scope, unlike their counterparts without gaps. Just as puzzlingly, we show that these restrictions are lifted when there is overt wh-movement in the main clause, revealing a striking similarity between the distribution of gapped degree phrases and so-called parasitic gap constructions. These findings, we argue, suggest that the theory of parasitic gaps needs to accommodate gapped degree phrases. Specifically, they argue that parasitic constituents are null operator structures—and under the right conditions need not be accompanied by matrix wh-movement.


Degree phrasesScopeGapped infinitival clausesNull operator movementParasitic gaps

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Languages, Literatures and LinguisticsSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of LinguisticsMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada