On Comparative Quantification in the Verbal Domain
Semantics and Linguistic Theory
Introduction The central goal of this paper is to provide a mechanism of comparative quantification in the verbal domain, where the degree of comparison is associated with an event argument. The empirical data comes from the comparative construction in Japanese with sugiru, which is an intransitive verb meaning 'to pass, to exceed', as in (1)a. Sugiru can attach to an adjective or a verb and express excessiveness just like too in English, as in (1)b-c. (1) a. Simekiri-ga sugi-ta. deadline-NOM
... -ta. deadline-NOM exceed-PAST 'The deadline has passed.' b. Kono sukaato-ga naga-sugi-ru. this skirt-NOM long-exceed-PRES 'This skirt is too long.' c. John-ga ne-sugi-ta. John-NOM sleep-too much-PAST 'John slept too much.' When -sugiru occurs with a measure phrase (MP), we observe strikingly different semantic interpretations depending where the MP appears. For instance, (2)a with the MP adjacent to the measured noun means that John overdid the reading of three particular books (read them too many times or for too long). In contrast, (2)b with the 'split' MP means that John read three more books than he was supposed to (e.g. he was supposed to read five, but ended up reading eight). One of the central questions addressed in this paper is how to obtain these two readings. I show that -sugiru in these examples involves comparative quantification in the verbal domain, which calls for a homomorphism (or a structure-preserving mapping) from events to anther domain. The difference comes from the fact that, in (2)b, the MP specifies that a homomorphism is from events to individuals (i.e. from reading events to books), while the MP in (2)a does not. (2) a. John-ga [hon san-satu]-o kinoo yomi-sugi-ta. John-NOM [book three-CL(ASSIFIER)]-ACC yesterday read-exceed-PAST 'John read (the) three books too much yesterday.' b. John-ga hon-o kinoo san-satu yomi-sugi-ta. John-NOM book-ACC yesterday three-CL read-exceed-PAST 'John read three books too many yesterday.'