Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 67–109 | Cite as

Projecting adjectives in Chinese



Chinese has the comparative morpheme and the positive morpheme, both of which project in syntax. The covert comparative morpheme is the covert allomorph of the comparative morpheme bǐjiào ‘more’. The covert bǐjiào ‘more’ can only occur in a comparative construction where an overt standard of comparison is syntactically available, but the overt one occurs in a comparative construction where an overt standard of comparison is syntactically unavailable. The positive morpheme also has two allomorphs. One is the unstressed hěn ‘HEN’ and the other is its covert counterpart. The covert one can only occur in a focus sensitive domain where the bare gradable adjective is focus-anchored, but the overt one occurs elsewhere. The covert allomorph, regardless of whether it is the comparative or the positive morpheme, is used to avoid violating the Constraint on Multiple Foci. Accordingly, the proposal of the comparative morpheme and the proposal of the positive morpheme can reinforce each other by establishing a theoretical relationship through the Nonhead Stress rule and the Constraint on Multiple Foci.


Comparative morpheme Constraint on multiple foci Covert Nonhead stress rule Overt Positive morpheme 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Foreign Languages and LiteraturesNational Chiao Tung UniversityHsinchuTaiwan

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