Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 581–620 | Cite as

Reduced and unreduced phrasal comparatives

  • Rajesh BhattEmail author
  • Shoichi Takahashi


Degree heads combine with individual (John is taller than [Mary]) as well as clausal arguments (John is taller than [Mary is]). Does the degree head have the same meaning in these two argument structures? Two kinds of answers have been proposed in the literature: I. there is a single meaning where the 2-place degree head combines with a degree predicate, with a reduction operation that derives the DP argument from a degree predicate denoting clausal argument, and II. there are distinct meanings for each argument structure, one combining with an individual denoting DP (3-place degree head) and the other with a degree predicate denoting clause (2-place degree head). We show that languages vary in which of these answers they choose: English goes for option I and Hindi-Urdu and Japanese for versions of option II. Our account of this variation assumes that the crosslinguistic distribution of 2-place and 3-place degree heads is not in itself subject to crosslinguistic parametrization; they are just syntactic projections of the basic meaning of comparison. We advance a specific proposal which derives the differences between the languages from the morphosyntactic properties of ‘than’ and a preference for minimal structure.


Crosslinguistic variation in comparatives Phrasal comparatives Clausal comparatives 2 vs. 3-place degree operators Direct Analysis Reduction Analysis Hindi-Urdu Japanese 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.South College, Department of LinguisticsUniversity of Massachusetts at AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.General Education, College of EngineeringNihon UniversityTamura-machi Koriyama-shiJapan

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