Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 67–101

On the semantics of comparison across categories

Research Article

Abstract

This paper explores the hypothesis that all comparative sentences— nominal, verbal, and adjectival—contain instances of a single morpheme that compositionally introduces degrees. This morpheme, sometimes pronounced much, semantically contributes a structure-preserving map from entities, events, or states, to their measures along various dimensions. A major goal of the paper is to argue that the differences in dimensionality observed across domains are a consequence of what is measured, as opposed to which expression introduces the measurement. The resulting theory has a number of interesting properties. It characterizes the notion of ‘measurement’ uniformly across comparative constructions, in terms of non-trivial structure preservation. It unifies the distinctions between mass/count nouns and atelic/telic verb phrases with that between gradable and non-gradable adjectives. Finally, it affords a uniform characterization of semantically anomalous comparisons across categories.

Keywords

Comparatives Degree constructions Measurement Mass-count distinction Telicity Gradable adjectives Plurality Semantics Logical form 

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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