A New Standard of Comparison

Peter Alrenga, Christopher Kennedy and Jason Merchant

An intricate range of facts involving binding constraints, ellipsis, and scopal interactions indicate that the surface position of the standard constituent in English comparatives (the than-phrase) marks the scope of comparison. Previous analyses are forced to posit complex mechanisms for linking the interpretation of the comparative morpheme more/-er to that of the standard constituent. We show that the same results can be derived under a much more direct mapping between the surface syntax and the semantic interpretation. Crucial to our analysis is the hypothesis that both the comparative morpheme more/-er and the standard morpheme than contribute to the semantics of comparison. We go on to show how this hypothesis may shed light on certain cross- linguistic generalizations concerning the expression of comparison.