Previous work on the syntax/semantics of comparatives with clausal standards proposes the use of A’-movement of a degree operator in the standard, following early work on English comparatives (Bresnan, 1973; Chomsky, 1977). I argue that the Mandarin Chinese 比 comparative is a comparative with a clausal standard that is not derived through degree abstraction. Crucial evidence comes from movement and ellipsis which shows that the standard in the Mandarin comparative is indeed clausal, despite surface appearances. My work on this subject began with my MA thesis advised by Chris Kennedy.

More recently, Anne Nguyen and I have investigated the syntax/semantics of degree constructions in Vietnamese. Degree morphemes in Vietnamese may precede or follow their gradable predicate: e.g. rất ‘very’ precedes, nhất ‘most’ follows. We argue that these two classes of expressions differ significantly in their syntax and semantics: Pre-predicate degree morphemes are functional heads whereas post-predicate degree morphemes head phrasal modifiers. The latter denote degree quantifiers which must move overtly to the right to take scope, deriving their post-predicate word order.

We have also looked specifically at the degree morpheme quá, which forms excessive constructions, akin to English too. Quá is one of the few degree morphemes which can both precede and follow its predicate. We show that pre-predicate and post-predicate versions of quá convey the meaning of excess in different ways: the latter relates the target degree to a purpose-oriented threshold, similar to well-studied excessives in other languages (Meier 2003, Schwarzschild 2008), whereas the latter is a comparative that introduces a not-at-issue malefactive inference. The study of quá as an excessive is however complicated by various other uses of the morpheme in the language, which our work also serves to disentangle.

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