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The comparative complement
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The comparative involves a comparison between two arguments which have received identical thematic roles from identical adjectives. Of the two arguments compared, one expresses the reference set for the comparison. This argument can syntactically be termed the comparative complement; the other argument is compared to the reference set, and it functions as subject or object, and so on. The comparative complement is expressed in a phrase introduced by the function word as PTCL.SIMT than:

Example 1

Frik is slim·mer as Willem.
Frik be.PRS smart·CMPR PTCL.SIMT Willem
Frik is smarter than Willem.
Example 2

Hulle ken haar beter as haar suster.
They know her better than her sister.
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While the comparative operates as a comparison between two arguments which have identical thematic roles and utilises the same adjective, the two arguments have different syntactic functions: the argument representing the reference set for the comparison (that is, the comparative complement), and the argument which is compared to the reference set. The comparative form, introduced by as than, may take the form of a NP (as a subject or object, for instance) or a proposition, and so forth. The various syntactic positions of the comparative form will be discussed here.

A comparative NP is part of the adjective phrase, although it may be separated from it. This is illustrated by the following pair of sentences, in which the AP and NP are moved as a unit (indicated by square brackets):

Example 3

Willempie is nie [slim·mer as Frik] nie.
Willempie be.PRS not smart·CMPR PTCL.SIMT Frik PTCL.NEG
Willempie is not smarter than Frik.
Example 4

[Slim·mer as Frik] is Willempie nie.
smart·CMPR PTCL.SIMT Frik be.PRS Willempie not
Willempie is not smarter than Frik.

This is also true of the equative complement:

Example 5

Willem is nie [so slim soos sy broer] nie.
Willem be.PRS not PTCL.SIMT smart PTCL.SIMT his brother PTCL.NEG
Willem is not as smart as his brother.
Example 6

[So slim soos sy broer] is Willem nie.
PTCL.SIMT smart PTCL.SIMT his brother be.PRS Willem not
Willem is not as smart as his brother.

Idiomatic expressions which contain an equative complement are very common, as in the example below:

Example 7

Hy is so slim soos die houtjie van die galg.
he be.PRS PTCL.SIMT clever PTCL.SIMT the wood.DIM of the gallows
He is extremely cunning.

The equative complement may absorb the adjectival meaning to such an extent that the AP is deleted, as illustrated by the following two examples:

Example 8

Die jaar het [so vinnig] soos blits verbygesnel.
the year have.AUX PTCL.SIMT quickly PTCL.SIMT lightning rush.past.PST
The year rushed past in next to no time.
Example 9

Die jaar het soos blits verbygesnel.
the year have.AUX PTCL.SIMT lightning rush.past.PST
The year rushed past in next to no time.

If the comparative complement is a sentence, then it contains a gap which corresponds to the phrase in the main clause which provides the element of comparison. In the example below, the speed of reading is compared to the speed of writing. The sentence also illustrates the fact that comparative sentences may be introduced by a sequence of two complementisers, the comparative complementiser as than and the subordinating complementiser wat what:

Example 10

Schalk skryf sy boek vinnig·er as wat ek dit kan lees.
Schalk write his book fast·CMPR PTCL.SIMT that.REL I it can.AUX.MOD read
Schalk writes his book faster than I can read it.

If the comparative complement is a sentence, then it contains a gap which corresponds to the phrase in the main clause which provides the element of comparison. In the example above, the comparative adjective vinniger faster provides the element of comparison. In the example below, the element of comparison is the comparative quantifier meer more, embedded in the direct object, and, correspondingly, the comparative clause lacks a direct object:

Example 11

Ek het meer boeke as wat ek in 'n leeftyd kan lees.
I have.PRS more books PTCL.SIMT that.REL I in a lifetime can.AUX.MOD read
I have more books than I can read in a lifetime.

By and large, this is reminiscent of question formation, in which a question phrase in a matrix clauses corresponds to a gap in an embedded clause:

Example 12

Wat dink jy kan ek lees?
that.REL think you can.AUX.MOD I read
What do you think (that) I can read?

In comparative constructions, a sequence of two superficially identical function words is avoided, even though their semantic function seems to be different.

The comparative complement is introduced by the function word as as, which normally means 'in the capacity of'. In case the constituent following this function word also begins with the function word as as, then the first instance of as as is replaced by the function word dan as:

Example 13

As parlementslid is hy meer betaal dan as dokter.
PTCL.SIMT member of parliament be.AUX.PASS.PST he more paid than as doctor
As a member of parliament he was paid more than as a doctor.

The following two examples show that other sequences of dissimilar complementisers may also be found:

Example 14

Nog eensam·er as wat sy gekom het, het Sannie teruggery.
even lonely·CMPR than that.REL she come have.AUX have.AUX Sannie driven back
Sannie drove back feeling even lonelier than when she came.
Example 15

Tuin skoonmaak is 'n veel grot·er taak as wat tot dusver aangeneem is.
garden cleaning be.PRS a much big.CMPR operation than that.REL until now assumed was
Garden cleaning is a much bigger operation than has been assumed until now.
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