Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 445–482 | Cite as

Clausal comparison without degree abstraction in Mandarin Chinese

  • Michael Yoshitaka ErlewineEmail author


This paper argues (a) that the bı̌ comparative construction in Mandarin Chinese is a form of clausal comparative and (b) that Mandarin Chinese lacks abstraction over degree variables. Beck et al. (2004) propose that languages may vary in whether or not they allow for abstraction over degree variables through movement. In previous work, comparatives with clausal standards have been uniformly analyzed cross-linguistically as involving \(\overline {\text{A}}\)-movement of a degree operator, and are thereby predicted to not occur in languages without degree abstraction. The paper shows that clausal comparison without degree abstraction is not only theoretically possible but attested, contributing to the cross-linguistic typology of degree constructions. Along the way, I detail the syntactic derivation of bı̌ comparatives and the obligatory ellipsis operation (comparative deletion) in their derivation.


Mandarin Chinese Comparative Clausal comparison Comparative deletion Ellipsis Degree abstraction Degree Abstraction Parameter 



For helpful discussion and comments, I thank Sigrid Beck, Patrick Grosz, Jeremy Hartman, Irene Heim, James Huang, Sabine Iatridou, Hadas Kotek, Jo-wang Lin, Chen-Sheng Luther Liu, Jason Merchant, Waltraud Paul, David Pesetsky, Omer Preminger, Norvin Richards, Yasutada Sudo, Maziar Toosarvandani, and audiences at the 2010 MIT Workshop on Comparatives and WCCFL 29 at the University of Arizona, as well as NLLT editors Louise McNally and Julie Anne Legate and many anonymous reviewers. I especially thank Chris Kennedy for putting me on this path and Athulya Aravind for detailed written comments on a recent draft. For extensive discussion of judgments I thank Celia Jia Cui, Julie Li Jiang, Chi-Ming Louis Liu, Pamela Pan, Cheng-Yu Edwin Tsai, Wei Wang, Yuncheng Zhou, and especially Tingchun Chen and Yimei Xiang. Parts of the data in Sect. 5 and a substantially different analysis appeared in the Proceedings of WCCFL 29 as Erlewine (2012). All errors are mine.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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