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Comparatives and DP-structure

Winfried Lechner, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Generative analyses traditionally acknowledge that comparative formation (Millhouse is better prepared today than Ralf was yesterday) potentially involves two types of ellipsis unattested in other contexts: Comparative Deletion (CD; Bresnan 1973), which elides the gradable property d-good , and Comparative Ellipsis (CE; Pinkham 1982), a deletion operation optionally applying to categories (prepared) in the comparative complement. Based on an investigation of structurally complex NP-comparatives, I present a syntactic and semantic account of comparatives which does not require reference to construction specific processes. According to the AP-Raising Hypothesis of CD, CD consists in feature-driven movement of the gradable property from the CD-site to its surface position. The analysis rests on two assumptions: First, CD is a syntactic process, and not a manifestation of semantic ellipsis (e.g. Kennedy 1997). Empirical support for this view derives from the specific scopal properties of the CD-site and categories inside the CD-site, which are tested on the basis of reconstruction and CSC-effects, WCO in attributive comparatives, and the distribution of de dicto readings for the CD-site. Second, I assume that the CD-site is associated with its antecedent by overt movement, not by ellipsis, and that the resulting chain is embedded in a right-branching phrase marker. This conception contributes to an understanding of a number of puzzles for NP-comparatives related to binding and locality as well as to the influence of word-order on the size of the CD-site and AP interpretation (Siegel 1976). The second objective of this dissertation consists in defending the Conjunction Reduction (CR)-Hypothesis of phrasal comparatives, which posits that phrasal comparatives derive from CD plus the application of Gapping, RNR and/or ATB-movement. The CR-Hypothesis subsumes the effects of CE under ATB-movement and CR, and rests on the premiss that the syntactic structure of reduced comparatives overlaps at one point of the derivation with the convergence of properties which defines coordination. Among others, the analysis captures the complex interdependencies between CE and serialization, and provides an explanation for the impact of the structure and size of ellipsis on the syntactic scope of the remnant. This latter observation presents a strong argument against competing direct approaches.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Lechner, Winfried, "Comparatives and DP-structure" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9920620.