Examining the Syntax and Semantics of ASL MORE- and BEAT-constructions
thesisposted on 30.07.2020, 17:53 by Ashley M Kentner
Comparisons provide an important tool for exploring the syntax and semantics of gradable properties. American Sign Language (ASL) appears to have several such constructions, but they have yet to receive much linguistic analysis. This study establishes basic empirical facts concerning clausal boundaries, constituency structure, compatibility with various indicators for the presence of degrees, and composition of the standard of comparison for the MORE- and BEAT-construction in ASL. Such facts are needed for any formal syntactic or semantic treatment of the constructions. Motivated by typological observations, this study proposes that a reasonable set of initial hypotheses is that the ASL MORE-construction is a comparison of degrees and that the BEAT-construction is a comparison of individuals (as both terms are defined in Kennedy 2007). Results from the tests conducted in this study are largely consistent with those analyses, but also show where there is room for further refinement. Results additionally demonstrate that both more and beat qualify as explicit rather than implicit comparatives, confirming previous work in Wilbur et al. (2018) concerning the latter. An incidental finding of this study involves the distributional patterns for
two modifiers frequently used with gradable properties, intensive aspect and Y-OO, indicating both have a semantics distinct from that of the English very even though
frequently translated between English and ASL with that modifier. Finally, this study contributes to the discussion of comparison constructions cross-linguistically by illustrating
the need to conduct cross-linguistic work that looks beyond what is considered the default comparison of the languages under investigation.