Degrees and amounts in relative clauses

Date of Completion

January 2008


Language, Linguistics




This dissertation discusses primarily two types of relative clauses that have been subsumed under the term amount relatives: there-relatives and a subset of ACD relatives. Based on their syntactic and semantic properties, I argue that the two types of relatives do not belong to the same class. They do not share all the relevant syntactic restrictions or the interpretation expected to result from degree relativization. More specifically, I analyze there-relatives as degree relatives containing a covert superlative morpheme. ACD relatives with amount readings show no syntactic evidence of degree relativization as originally assumed in the Carlson (1977)/Heim (1987) tradition. This forces a terminological distinction between degree relatives, which involve syntactic degree relativization (with or without an amount reading), and amount relatives, relatives with amount interpretations. I argue that the covert superlative is responsible for the absence of an amount reading in there-relatives, as it “absorbs” (combines with) the degree variable and yields an individual rather than a degree. In addition, I show that the amount readings available in some ACD relatives are not identical to the pure amount readings we expect to obtain as a result of pure degree relativization. Additional support for this split approach comes from a cross-linguistic investigation of relativizer restrictions and from the temporal interpretation of noun phrases in the two kinds of relative clauses. ^