On the semantics of comparison across categories

Alexis Wellwood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This paper explores the hypothesis that all comparative sentences— nominal, verbal, and adjectival—contain instances of a single morpheme that compositionally introduces degrees. This morpheme, sometimes pronounced much, semantically contributes a structure-preserving map from entities, events, or states, to their measures along various dimensions. A major goal of the paper is to argue that the differences in dimensionality observed across domains are a consequence of what is measured, as opposed to which expression introduces the measurement. The resulting theory has a number of interesting properties. It characterizes the notion of ‘measurement’ uniformly across comparative constructions, in terms of non-trivial structure preservation. It unifies the distinctions between mass/count nouns and atelic/telic verb phrases with that between gradable and non-gradable adjectives. Finally, it affords a uniform characterization of semantically anomalous comparisons across categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-101
Number of pages35
JournalLinguistics and Philosophy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2015


  • Comparatives
  • Degree constructions
  • Gradable adjectives
  • Logical form
  • Mass-count distinction
  • Measurement
  • Plurality
  • Semantics
  • Telicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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