Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



The article presents a formal analysis of the scalar equative construction in Mandarin Chinese (MSEs). In the standard degree-based approach, scalar equatives are widely assumed to express an asymmetrical linear ordering between two degree-denoting descriptions such that the degree to which the comparee possesses is at least as great as the degree to which the standard possesses. However, this standard analysis would fall short of MSEs, which display a cluster of properties that are unexpected on the standard account: (i) MSEs disallow differentials; (ii) MSEs cannot take measure phrases as the standard; (iii) MSEs in general do not license NPIs in the standard phrases, and (iv) MSEs disallow factor phrases that express multiplication of numerical values. We propose that unlike scalar equatives in English (ESEs), where the comparison of equality is based on asymmetrical linear ordering of the degrees as points, MSEs recur to degrees as kinds, and consequently, the comparison of equality in the latter is based on instantiation of the degree-kinds, namely, equality of properties. The commonalities and differences between MSEs and ESEs suggest that, despite the fact that degrees and properties are semantic objects of distinct types, the underlying connection between them runs deep and fundamental.

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license.

Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...



  1. Abbott, Barbara
    2010Reference. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Alrenga, Peter
    2010 Comparisons of similarity and difference. InHofherr, Patricia Cabredo & Matushansky, Ora (eds.), Adjectives: Formal analyses in syntax and semantics, 155–186. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/la.153.05alr
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.153.05alr [Google Scholar]
  3. Anderson, Curt & Morzycki, Marcin
    2015 Degrees as kinds. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory33(3). 791–828. 10.1007/s11049‑015‑9290‑z
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-015-9290-z [Google Scholar]
  4. Beck, Sigrid
    2012 Comparison constructions. InMaienborn, Claudia & von Heusinger, Klaus & Portner, Paul (eds.), Semantics: An international handbook of natural language meaning, vol. 2, 1341–1389. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Beck, Sigrid & Oda, Toshiko & Sugisaki, Koji
    2004 Parametric variation in the semantics of comparison: Japanese vs. English. Journal of East Asian Linguistics13(4). 289–344. 10.1007/s10831‑004‑1289‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-004-1289-0 [Google Scholar]
  6. Beck, Sigrid & Krasikova, Sveta & Fleischer, Daniel & Gergel, Remus & Hofstetter, Stefan & Savelsberg, Christiane & Vanderelst, John & Villalta, Elisabeth
    2009 Crosslinguistic variation in comparison constructions. Invan Craenenbroeck, Jeroen (ed.), Linguistic variation yearbook 2009, 1–66. 10.1075/livy.9.01bec
    https://doi.org/10.1075/livy.9.01bec [Google Scholar]
  7. Bhatt, Rajesh. & Takahashi, Shoichi
    2011 Reduced and unreduced phrasal comparatives. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory29(3). 581–620. 10.1007/s11049‑011‑9137‑1
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-011-9137-1 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bochnak, Michael Ryan
    2013Cross-linguistic variation in the semantics of comparatives. Chicago: The University of Chicago. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Bresnan, Joan
    1973 Syntax of the comparative clause construction in English. Linguistic Inquiry4(3). 275–343.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Carlson, Gregory
    1977Reference to kinds in English. Amherst: UMass Amherst. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Chen, Yi-Hsun
    2010The syntax and semantics of Chinese equatives. Hsinchu: National Chiao Tung University. (Master’s thesis.)
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Chierchia, Gennaro
    1998 Reference to kinds across languages. Natural Language Semantics6(4). 339–405. 10.1023/A:1008324218506
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008324218506 [Google Scholar]
  13. Chomsky, Noam
    1977 On wh-movement. InCulicover, Peter & Wasow, Thomas & Akmajian, Adrian (eds.), Formal syntax, 71–132. New York: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Cresswell, Maxwell John
    1976 The semantics of degree. InPartee, Barbara H. (ed.), Montague grammar, 261–292. New York: Academic Press. 10.1016/B978‑0‑12‑545850‑4.50015‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-545850-4.50015-7 [Google Scholar]
  15. Erlewine, Michael Yoshitaka
    2018 Clausal comparison without degree abstraction in Mandarin Chinese. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory36(2). 445–482. 10.1007/s11049‑017‑9383‑y
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-017-9383-y [Google Scholar]
  16. Francez, Itamar & Koontz-Garboden, Andrew
    2017Semantics and morphosyntactic variation: Qualities and the grammar of property concepts. New York: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198744580.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198744580.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  17. Grosu, Alexander & Landman, Fred
    1998 Strange relatives of the third kind. Natural Language Semantics6(2). 125–170. 10.1023/A:1008268401837
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008268401837 [Google Scholar]
  18. Haspelmath, Martin & Buchholz, Oda
    1998 Equatives and similative constructions in the languages of Europe. Invan der Auwera, Johan & Ó Baoill, Dónall P. (eds.), Adverbial constructions in the languages of Europe, 277–334. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110802610.277
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110802610.277 [Google Scholar]
  19. Haspelmath, Martin & the Leipzig Equative Constructions Team
    2017 Equative constructions in a world-wide perspective. InTreis, Yvonne & Vanhove, Martine (eds.), Similative and equative constructions: A cross-linguistic perspective, 9–32. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.117.02has
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.117.02has [Google Scholar]
  20. Heim, Irene
    1985Notes on comparatives and related matters. Austin: The University of Texas at Austin. (Unpublished manuscript.)
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Heim, Irene & Kratzer, Angelika
    1998Semantics in generative grammar. Malden: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Hohaus, Vera & Bochnak, M. Ryan
    2020 The grammar of degree: Gradability across languages. Annual Review of Linguistics61. 235–259. 10.1146/annurev‑linguistics‑011718‑012009
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-linguistics-011718-012009 [Google Scholar]
  23. Hohaus, Vera & Zimmermann, Malte
    2021 Comparison of equality with German so…wie, and the relationship between degrees and properties. Journal of Semantics38(1). 95–143. 10.1093/jos/ffaa011
    https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/ffaa011 [Google Scholar]
  24. Hsieh, I-Ta Chris
    2015 Remark: Long-distance reflexives, blocking effects, and the structure of Mandarin comparatives. Syntax18(1). 78–102. 10.1111/synt.12026
    https://doi.org/10.1111/synt.12026 [Google Scholar]
  25. Jacobson, Pauline
    1995 On the quantificational force of English free relatives. InBach, Emmon & Jelinek, Eloise & Kratzer, Angelika & Partee, Barbara H. (eds.), Quantification in natural languages, 451–486. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Kennedy, Christopher
    1999Projecting the adjective: The syntax and semantics of gradability and comparison. London: Taylor & Francis Group.
    [Google Scholar]
  27. 2002 Comparative deletion and optimality in syntax. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory20(3). 553–621. 10.1023/A:1015889823361
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015889823361 [Google Scholar]
  28. 2007 Vagueness and grammar: The semantics of relative and absolute adjectives. Linguistics and Philosophy30(1). 1–45. 10.1007/s10988‑006‑9008‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-006-9008-0 [Google Scholar]
  29. 2009 Modes of comparison. InElliott, Malcolm & Kirby, James & Sawada, Osamu & Staraki, Eleni & Yoon Suwon (eds.), Proceedings from the Main Session of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 139–163. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Kennedy, Christopher. & McNally, Louise
    2005 Scale structure, degree modification, and the semantics of gradable predicates. Language81(2). 345–381. 10.1353/lan.2005.0071
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2005.0071 [Google Scholar]
  31. Krasikova, Sveta
    2008 Comparison in Chinese. InBonami, Olivier & Hofherr, Patricia Cabredo (eds.), Empirical issues in syntax and semantics volume 7, 263–281. Paris: Colloque de Syntaxe et Sémantique à Paris.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Ladusaw, William A.
    1980Polarity sensitivity as inherent scope relations. Bloomington: Linguistics Club, Indiana University.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Lechner, Winfried
    2001 Reduced and phrasal comparatives. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory19(4). 683–735. 10.1023/A:1013378908052
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013378908052 [Google Scholar]
  34. Lin, Jo-wang
    2009 Chinese comparatives and their implicational parameters. Natural Language Semantics17(1). 1–27. 10.1007/s11050‑008‑9033‑3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-008-9033-3 [Google Scholar]
  35. Liu, Luther Cheng-Sheng
    1996 A note on Chinese comparatives. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences26(1/2). 215–236.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Luo, Qiongpeng
    2019Yuyixue yu xingtai jufa bianyi: Yi Ying Han yu liangji dengbiju weili [Semantics and morphosyntactic variation: The case of scalar equatives in English and Mandarin]. Waiguoyu [Journal of Foreign Languages] 31. 47–59.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Luo, Qiongpeng & Cao, Yuzhen
    2018 Equatives are not all equal: A correlative analysis of scalar equatives in Mandarin Chinese. (Paper presented at the54th Annual Meeting of Chicago Linguistic Society (CLS 54), Chicago, April 26–28 2018.)
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Luo, Qiongpeng. & Xie, Zhiguo
    2018 Degrees as nominalized properties: evidence from differential verbal comparatives in Mandarin Chinese. InSauerland, Uli & Solt, Stephanie (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 22 (SuB 22), vol. 2, 89–106. Berlin: Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics. 10.21248/zaspil.61.2018.486
    https://doi.org/10.21248/zaspil.61.2018.486 [Google Scholar]
  39. Mendia, Jon Ander
    2017Amount relatives redux. Amherst: UMass Amherst. (Doctoral dissertation.)
    [Google Scholar]
  40. 2020 Reference to ad hoc kinds. Linguistics and Philosophy43(6). 589–631. 10.1007/s10988‑019‑09280‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-019-09280-9 [Google Scholar]
  41. Moltmann, Friederike
    2009 Degree structure as trope structure: A trope-based analysis of positive and comparative adjectives. Linguistics and Philosophy32(1). 51–94. 10.1007/s10988‑009‑9054‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-009-9054-5 [Google Scholar]
  42. Penka, Doris
    2017 The semantics of equatives in English and German. (Paper presented at theworkshop Microvariation in Semantics, Berlin, September 6 2017.)
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Rett, Jessica
    2013 Semilatives and the argument structure of verbs. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory31(4). 1101–1137. 10.1007/s11049‑013‑9201‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-013-9201-0 [Google Scholar]
  44. 2015 Measure phrase equatives and modified numerals. Journal of Semantics32(3). 425–475. 10.1093/jos/ffu004
    https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/ffu004 [Google Scholar]
  45. Schwarzschild, Roger & Wilkinson, Karina
    2002 Quantifiers in comparatives: A semantics of degree based on intervals. Natural Language Semantics10(1). 1–41. 10.1023/A:1015545424775
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015545424775 [Google Scholar]
  46. Scontras, Gregory
    2017 A new kind of degree. Linguistics and Philosophy40(2). 165–205. 10.1007/s10988‑016‑9200‑9
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-016-9200-9 [Google Scholar]
  47. Seuren, Pieter A. M.
    1973 The comparative. InKiefer, F. & Ruwet, N. (eds.), Generative grammar in Europe, 528–564. Dordrecht: D. Reidel. 10.1007/978‑94‑010‑2503‑4_22
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-010-2503-4_22 [Google Scholar]
  48. Song, Yu Zhu
    1984 Yu xiang youguan de jige wenti [Several issues related to xiang]. Yuyan Jiaoxue yu Yanjiu [Language Teaching and Linguistic Studies] 1984(1). 13–25.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Sun, Yenan
    2019Same as the parameter of an equation construction. InFranke, Michael & Kompa, Nikola & Liu, Mingya & Mueller, Jutta L. & Schwab, Juliane (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 24, vol.21, 306–318.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. 2021 Decomposing same. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11049-021-09522-1) (Accessed on2021-08-15.)
    [Google Scholar]
  51. von Stechow, Arnim
    1984 Comparing semantic theories of comparison. Journal of Semantics3(1–2). 1–77. 10.1093/jos/3.1‑2.1
    https://doi.org/10.1093/jos/3.1-2.1 [Google Scholar]
  52. Treis, Yvonne
    2018 Comparative constructions: An introduction. Linguistic Discovery16(1). i–xxvi. 10.1349/PS1.1537‑0852.A.492
    https://doi.org/10.1349/PS1.1537-0852.A.492 [Google Scholar]
  53. Wellwood, Alexis
    2015 On the semantics of comparison across categories. Linguistics and Philosophy38(1). 67–101. 10.1007/s10988‑015‑9165‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10988-015-9165-0 [Google Scholar]
  54. Zhu, Dexi
    1982 Shuo gen…yiyang [On gen…yiyang]. Hanyu Xuexi [Chinese Language Learning] 1982(1). 1–5.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error