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Attributive comparatives without article and agreement
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Attributive comparatives may occur without agreement and without a preceding indefinite article in case they are used in a negative sentence.

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Attributive comparatives may occur without agreement and without a preceding indefinite article in case they are used in a negative sentence.

Example 1

a. In better-e bolle wie der net
a better.CG bull was there not
There was not a better bull
b. Better bolle wie der net
better bull was there not
There was not a better bull
c. Der is in better-e bolle
there is a better.CG bull
There is a better bull
d. *Der is grif better bolle
there is surely better bull
There is surely a better bull

Such comparatives without agreement and unaccompanied by the indefinite article, as in (1b), will be referred to as bare comparatives. Since the phenomenon of bare comparatives is especially found in negative sentences, it is actually an instance of negative polarity. The phenomenon can also be found in affirmative sentences, provided that the verb creates an intensional context:

Example 2

Hy socht lytser fyts as dat ik tocht hie
he looked.for smaller bicycle than that I thought had
He looked for a smaller bicycle than I had thought

This may be taken as an indication that free choice interpretation is somehow involved. Certain items, like English any, have properties both of negative polarity items and of free choice items. The bare comparative seems to fall in the same class of phenomena. The loss of agreement and the loss of the indefinite article must go hand in hand. One without the other is ungrammatical, as shown by the following two sentences:

Example 3

a. *In better bolle wie der net
a better bull was there not
There was not a better bull
b. *Better-e bolle wie der net
a better.CG bull was there not
There was not a better bull

The phenomenon can also occur in plural Noun Phrases (NPs):

Example 4

Better bollen wiene der net
better bulls were there not
There were not any better bulls

A characteristic property of bare comparatives is that they may not be preceded by quantifiers, except for the negative quantifier gjinno:

Example 5

a. *Trije heger tuorren wiene der mar
three higher towers were there only
There were only three higher towers
b. *Hoefolle heger tuorren wiene der?
how.many higher towers were there
How many higher towers were there?
c. Dat nea gjin heger bigearten yn him opkommen
that never no higher desires in him arose
How is it possible that there never arose higher desires in him
d. En yn jierren gjin heger klanken heard hiene
and in years no higher sounds heard had
And had not heart higher sounds in years

It may be supposed that bare comparatives occur in a quantifier position, which would explain why they may not co-occur with quantifiers themselves. This suggestion receives further support from the fact that bare comparatives cannot be stacked, unlike normal comparatives. This is shown in the following two examples:

Example 6

a. In djoerder-e grutter-e auto wie der net
a more.expensive.CG bigger.CG car was there not
There was not a more expensive and bigger car
b. *Djoerder grutter auto wie der net
a more.expensive.CG bigger.CG car was there not
There was not a more expensive and bigger car

There is, however, one quantifier which may co-occur with bare comparatives: negation, a quantifier which itself combines with other quantifiers:

Example 7

Der wie gjin rêder reedrider as Rintsje
there was no faster skater than Rintsje
There was not a faster skater than Rintsje

The fact that gjinno is the only quantifier allowed to precede bare comparatives indicates that negative polarity is a factor of relevance to this phenomenon, even though it cannot be the whole story, in view of the fact that some speakers accept examples with bare comparatives without negation. This is reminiscent of items such as English any, which combines properties of negative polarity items with those of free choice items. The bare comparative may also be derived from a nominalized adjective, which results in examples like the following:

Example 8

a. Der stie in frommeske efter 'e taap, hy hie nea grouwer sjoen
there stood a woman behind the bar he had never fatter seen
There was a woman behind the bar, he had never seen a fatter one
b. Der binne wol folle jonger as ik dy't in bril ha moatte
there are MP much younger than I who a spectacles have much
There are much younger persons than me, who have to use spectacles
c. Der is gjin minder as pinemûle
there is no less than toothache
There is nothing worse than a toothache

The second example shows that the bare comparative can expand, as in folle jonger, like normal comparatives. Whereas ordinarily nominalized adjectives are marked with -e (see: Noun ellipsis ), bare comparatives must remain unmarked even if they are nominalized. This indicates that the process of forming bare comparatives destroys the structural environment that causes the nominal -e to appear, while still allowing nominalization in itself.

The nominalized bare comparative may have a non-count interpretation which is compatible with a propositional interpretation for the comparative complement. An ordinary nominalized comparative preceded by the indefinite article receives a count interpretation, which is incompatible with a propositional interpretation. Compare the following two sentences:

Example 9

a. Der is gjin minder as pinemûle
there is no less than toothache
There is nothing worse than a toothache
b. *Der is net in mindere as pinemûle
there is no less than toothache
There is nothing worse than a toothache

The ungrammatical sentence features a propositional interpretation for the comparative complement, seeing that the intended meaning for the comparative complement is having a toothache.

If the comparative complement is countable, then a sentence featuring an ordinary nominalized comparative is acceptable:

Example 10

Ja de rjochtsback. Der is net in mindere as dizze
yes the right.wing.defender there is not a less than this.one
There is not a worse right back than this one

A bare comparative is compatible with a countable complement as well:

Example 11

Ja de rjochtsback. Der is gjin minder as dizze
yes the right.wing.defender there is no less than this.one
There is not a worse right back than this one

Bare comparatives share their lack of agreement with certain quantifiers which lack agreement in case they are outside the agreement domain:

Example 12

a. De hiel-e wrâld
the.CG whole.CG world
The whole world
b. Hiel de wrâld
whole the.CG world
The whole world

That bare comparatives lack an overt marker for agreement and nominalization is a property which they share with quantifiers as well:

Example 13

a. Guon minsken
some people
Some people
b. Ik ha guon sjoen
I have some seen
I have seen some of them
[show extra information]
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This section makes grateful use of an unpublished article by J. Hoekstra (1998).

References:
  • Hoekstra, JarichBare comparatives in Frisian and the structure of quantified noun phrases 1998
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