The semantics of comparatives, or the measurement of differences
Linmin Zhang, Jia Ling
October 2019
 

Degree semantics has been developed to study how the meanings of measurements and comparisons are encoded in natural language. Within degree semantics, this paper proposes a novel difference-based (or subtraction-based) perspective to characterize the semantics of comparatives. The main motivation is the measurability and comparability of differences involved in natural language comparatives. The main claim is that comparatives encode a subtraction relation among three items: two measurements on a certain scale and the difference between them. We analyze comparative morpheme -er/more as a default, least specific, positive difference, i.e., (0, +∞), and use interval arithmetic to implement subtraction. Our analysis inherits many existing insightful views on the semantics of comparatives. Moreover, the novel interval-subtraction-based implementation brings new conceptual and empirical advantages. In particular, we address the interpretation of comparatives containing numerical differentials and than-clause-internal quantifiers, the scope island status and the monotonicity of than-clauses, as well as a unified comparison-based view for various uses of gradable adjectives.
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
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