Comparison and Polar Opposition

This paper uses the distribution and interpretation of antonymous adjectives in comparative constructions as an empirical basis to argue that abstract representations of measurement, or `degrees', must be modeled as intervals on a scale, rather than as points, as commonly assumed. I begin by demonstrating that the facts in this domain must be accounted for in terms of the interaction of the semantics of adjectival polarity and the semantics of the comparative, rather than principles governing the (overt) expression of particular types of adjectives in comparatives. I then show that only a model in which degrees are formalized as intervals on a scale and adjectival polarity is characterized in terms of two structurally distinct and complementary sorts of `positive' and `negative' degrees supports a principled account of the full range of data under consideration.