Non-Canonical Comparatives: Syntax-semantics and Psycholinguistics

Language and Logic Courses

Advanced Course

Non-Canonical Comparatives: Syntax-semantics and Psycholinguistics,
Roumyana Pancheva (University of Southern California, USA) and Alexis Wellwood (University of Southern California, USA)

The overwhelming majority of the literature on the syntax-semantics and psycholinguistics of comparative constructions (i.e., those with the morphemes -er, as, too, enough, etc, in English) has focused on those targeting gradable adjectives and adverbs like tall and fast. We investigate non-canonical comparative constructions targeting nouns (more coffee/toys), and verbs (sleep/jump more). We begin by discussing the similarities and differences between these two types (Day 1), and then turn to current issues. First, we investigate structures that obligatorily express comparison by number (more coffees, run to the store more), and their derivational dependence on plural and aspectual morphology across languages (Days 2 and 3). Next, we probe speaker understanding by looking at adult and child verification of nominal and verbal comparatives (Day 4). Finally, we discuss the “comparative illusion” phenomenon, which appears to depend on more’s flexibility as a nominal and verbal quantifier (Day 5).