Numeral differential constructions in Arabic

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Peter Hallman


In sentences like Mary found three shells more than Joan did, three appears to syntactically modify the object noun shells yet is interpreted as a specification of the difference between the number of shells that Mary found and the number that Joan found. Accordingly, syntactic and semantic analyses of such cases cast the numeral as a modifier of more in the transformational base for this construction. In this paper, I present evidence from Arabic indicating that the numeral is a direct modifier of the plural noun in the counterpart construction in that language. I propose that derivational processes sever its thematic relation to the plural noun and reintegrate it as a modifier of the differential argument of the comparative morpheme. What makes this possible is raising of the numeral together with late insertion of the comparative degree phrase (DegP), as previously proposed for superlative DegPs.

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