LINGUIST List 3.590

Sat 18 Jul 1992

Disc: Comparatives

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  1. JOHN FRAMPTON, for the List

Message 1: for the List

Date: Wed, 15 Jul 1992 13:01 ESTfor the List
From: JOHN FRAMPTON <FRAMPTONnortheastern.edu>
Subject: for the List

In response to Nevin's "incremental paraphrase" (my term) analysis of
comparatives in Linguist List 3-567.

The analysis of

(1) I think this is rarer than Allan does.

can't be correct. Consider

(2) I think there are more birds in the yard than Allan does.

Nevin's proposal would require the paraphrase

(3) I think there are birds in the yard more than Allan does.

But this is not a paraphrase.

I think Nevin is correct in thinking that what is at stake here is the
ability of /more/ to move out of its clause and appear, in some
representation, in the main clause. (This is implicit in the sequence
of paraphrases which he gives.) Consider

(4) a. *I regret that there are more birds in the yard than Allan does.
 b. *I think there aren't more birds in the yard than Allan does.
 c. *I wonder whether there are more birds in the yard than Allan does.

Verbs like /regret/, negative elements, and wh-islands are typical
obstacles to movement.

The problem seems to be analagous to "neg raising".

(5) a. I don't think he is happy.
 b. I think he isn't happy.
 c. I don't regret that he is happy.
 d. I regret that he isn't happy.

Some analysis must account for the fact that (5a) and (5b) have readings
which are more or less equivalent, but that (5c) and (5d) do not. Under
some analyses, the surface structure of (5a) is derived from an underlying
structure in which the negative element is generated in the lower clause.
Movement carries it to the upper clause where it appears in surface
structure.

In order for a parallel analysis of (1) and (2) to go through, however, one
must be prepared to accept a level of representation in which /more/ (or
the corresponding element which appears in the comparative /-er/) moves to
the higher clause. Note that his level must be "higher" than surface
structure and must be fairly abstract, in the sense that it is not amenable
to a transparent semantic interpretation. But no more abstract than the
surface structure of (5a), which is also not amenable to a transparent
semantic interpretation.

John Frampton
Northeastern University
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