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Negative polarity and comparative adjectives

The comparative adjective is able to license negative polarity items in its comparative complement. This means that the comparative may create the possibility for a negative interpretation of the proposition expressed in the main clause on the basis of the proposition which serves as the criterion of comparison. In the following sentence, minder fewer acts as negative polarity item, since it indicates that the norm laid down by the use of nodig necessary is not met.

Example 1

In meer as 80 lande is die geboortes nou  minder as wat nodig is om te keer dat die bevolkings krimp.
in more SIMT 80 countries be.PRS the births now fewer PTCL.SIMT that.COMP necessary be.PRS for.COMP PTCL.INF prevent.INF that the populations shrink
In more than 80 countries the numbers of births are now smaller than what would be necessary to prevent the populations from shrinking.

Semantically, the nature of the antonymy of the relevant adjective does not determine the polarity. In the sentence below, meer more also licenses negative polarity, although it represents the positive antonym of minder fewer, as in the first example.

Example 2

die geboortes is nou meer as wat die ekonomie kan dra
the births be.PRS now more PTCL.SIMT that.REL the economy can.AUX.MOD support
the birthrate is now higher than what the economy can support

The comparative adjective is able to license negative polarity items in its comparative complement. In the examples below, the comparative adjective licenses the polar adjective langer longer. As the adjectives involved themselves do not license negative polarity items, it may be concluded that it is the comparative element, -er or meer more, which does the licensing:

Example 3

langer as wat gewoonlik die geval is
longer PTCL.SIMT that.REL usually the case be.PRS
longer than what is normally the case

The negative polarity item ooit ever can also be found in the comparative complement:

Example 4

Sy het makliker as ooit met mense in aanraking gekom.
she have.AUX more.easily PTCL.SIMT ever with people into contact come
She came into contact with people more easily than ever (before).
Example 5

Dié middag het hy minder verkoop as ooit die geval was.
that afternoon has he less sold PTCL.SIMT ever the case be.PRT
That afternoon he sold less than had ever been the case.

In the last two examples, where the comparative complement is a proposition, it is also possible to put the complementiser wat what in between as PTCL.SIMT than and ooit ever, this is shown in the examples below:

Example 6

'n groter skare as wat ooit voorheen in die dorp byeen was
a larger crowd PTCL.SIMT that.REL ever before in the town gathered be.PRT
a larger crowd than has ever gathered in the town

The comparative not only licenses negative polarity in its comparative complement, but it also licenses negative polarity on its modifiers, seeing that the negative polarity item baie much, very is grammatical in the modifier position of comparatives:

Example 7

baie duideliker
much clearer

Not all negative polarity items which occur in the complement of the comparative can occur in the scope of a superlative. Like ordinary comparatives, the inherent comparative ander / anders different, else, licenses negative polarity in its comparative phrase:

Example 8

Hy het vinnig en anders gepraat as wat nodig was.
he has faster and different talked PTCL.SIMT that.REL necessary be.PRT
He talked faster and different than he needed to.
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