Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 67–101 | Cite as

On the semantics of comparison across categories

  • Alexis WellwoodEmail author
Research Article


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.


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


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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