One of my earliest areas of interest is the syntax/semantics of degree constructions such as comparatives, inspired by my undergraduate advisor Chris Kennedy.

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). In my most recent work on the subject, 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.

More recently, Anne Nguyen and I have investigated the syntax/semantics of degree constructions in Vietnamese, concentrating on the uses of the morpheme quá. Quá is used to form excessive constructions, akin to English too, but stands alone in the language in being able to both precede and follow its gradable 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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