The semantics of comparatives, or the measurement of differences
Linmin Zhang, Jia Ling
April 2020

(We have updated this manuscript with a new title: 'The semantics of comparatives: A difference-based approach'. The most updated version can be found here: Degree semantics has been developed to study how the meanings of measurement and comparison are encoded in natural language. Within degree semantics, this paper proposes a difference-based (or subtraction-based) approach to analyze the semantics of comparatives. The motivation is the measurability and comparability of differences involved in comparatives. The main claim is that comparatives encode a subtraction relation among three scalar values: two measurements on an interval scale and the difference between them. We contribute two innovations: (i) using interval arithmetic to implement subtraction, and (ii) analyzing comparative morpheme -er/more as an additive particle, denoting the default, most general, positive difference. Our analysis inherits existing insights in the literature. Moreover, the innovations bring new conceptual and empirical advantages. In particular, we address the interpretation of comparatives containing than-clause-internal quantifiers and various kinds of numerical differentials. We also account for three puzzles with regard to the scope island issue, the monotonicity of than-clauses, and the discourse status of the standard in comparison.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004816
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: manuscript
keywords: gradable adjectives, comparatives, differentials, differences, comparative morpheme -er/more, measurement constructions, semantics
previous versions: v1 [October 2019]
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