Mandarin Transitive Comparatives and the Grammar of Measurement

Thomas Grano and Christopher Kennedy

Mandarin Chinese has two strategies for forming comparatives of superiority: one in which the standard of comparison is introduced by the morpheme bi, and one that resembles a transitive verb construction, in which the standard of comparison directly follows a gradable adjective. The 'transitive comparative' exhibits two special restrictions: the predicate must be one that accepts differential measure phrases, and the measure phrase must be overt. We argue that these facts support an analysis of the syntax of the adjectival projection in which gradable adjectives do not project degree arguments, as typically assumed, but do so only in combination with a covert morpheme μ. Building on the proposal that argument DPs in Mandarin require Case, we hypothesize that there are (at least) two case assigners for standards of comparison in Mandarin: the overt morpheme bi and the covert morpheme μ found in transitive comparatives.