Workshop description

The DeGP-workshop focuses on the syntax, morphology, and semantics of comparatives in particular and degree expressions more generally. Specific topics include (i) the internal and external syntax of the standard clause (e.g. the than-phrase in English), (ii) the fine-grained morphological structure of the comparative marker (e.g. -er in English), and (iii) different implementations of the notion of degree.

The literature on comparatives offers different analyses of the syntactic status of the standard clause. Its external syntax has been analysed as involving coordination (Lechner 2004), an adjunct (Bresnan 1973) or a complement (Hazout 1995) of an adjectival or degree phrase, or the specifier of this phrase (Larson 1988). The internal syntax of the standard clause is contingent on the distinction between what Hankamer (1973) termed phrasal and clausal comparatives. The consensus is that in clausal comparatives the standard marker is a preposition that takes a CP as its complement. Phrasal comparatives are more disputed. They are either argued to be derived from clausal comparatives through ellipsis (Bresnan 1973, Lechner 2001), or to be ‘ordinary’ prepositional phrases that do not involve any ellipsis (Napoli 1983, Kennedy 1997). This workshop will explore the syntactic status and semantic contribution of standard markers in comparative and equative constructions.

Zooming in on the structure of comparative adjectives, Corver (1997) argues that adjectives are comprised of a degree element (DegP), a quantifier (QP), and an adjectival phrase (AP). Bobaljik (2012) suggests that since there are different types of degrees the DegP has to be split into comparative phrase (CmprP) and superlative phrase (SprlP). Caha et al. (2019) provide evidence from Czech suggesting that the CmprP has to be decomposed into two separate comparative heads: C1 and C2 (see also De Clercq & Vanden Wyngaerd 2017). De Clercq et al. (to appear) propose a similar analysis for the superlative degree, i.e. decomposing SprlP into S1 and S2. This workshop will examine the internal structure of comparative adjectives and the evidence for decomposing the DegP. A second central topic related to comparative adjectives concerns the containment hypothesis, (Bobaljik 2012), whereby the positive is contained in the comparative, and the comparative in the superlative. In many languages the comparative is built on top of the positive (e.g. English tall vs. tall-er), but data from Slavic suggest that it might not be that straightforward: adjectives contain morhology in the positive that does not appear in the comparative or the superlative (Caha et al. 2019). Containment, as well as possible counterexamples to it, will be one of the topics of discussion in the DeGP-workshop.


Bobaljik, J. D. 2012. Universals in comparative morphology: suppletion, superlatives, and the structure of words, Cambridge, MA, London: MIT Press.

Bresnan, J.W. 1973. Syntax of the Comparative Clause Construction in English. Linguistic Inquiry. 4 (3), 275-343.

Caha, P., and De Clercq, K., and Vanden Wyngaerd, G. 2019. Studia Linguistica, 470–521.

Corver, Norbert. 1997. Much-Support as a Last Resort. Linguistic Inquiry, 28 (1): 119-164.

De Clercq, K. and Caha, P., and Starke, M., and Vanden Wyngaerd, G. (to appear). The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Morphology. ed. by Ackema, Peter and Bonet, Eulàlia and Bendjaballah, Sabrina and Fábregas, Antonio. Blackwell.

De Clercq, K. and Vanden Wyngaerd, G. 2017. *ABA revisited: Evidence from Czech and Latin degree morphology. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics. 2(1), 1–32.

Hankamer, J. 1973. Why there are two thans in English. CLS 9, 179-191.

Hazout, I. Comparative Ellipsis and Logical Form. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory.
13 (1), 1-37.

Kennedy, C. 1997. Projecting the adjective: the syntax and semantics of gradability and comparison. PhD diss., UC Santa Cruz.

Larson, R.K. 1988. Scope and Comparatives. Linguistics and Philosophy. 11 (1), 1-26.

Lechner, W. 2001. Reduced and phrasal comparatives. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory. 19 (4), 683-735.

Lechner, W. 2004. Ellipsis in Comparatives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Merchant,J. 2009. Phrasal and clausal comparatives in Greek and the abstractness of syntax. Journal of Greek Linguistics 9, 134–164.

Napoli,D.J. 1983. Comparative Ellipsis: A Phrase Structure Analysis. Linguistic Inquiry. 14 (4), 675-694.