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Syntax Interface Lectures Utrecht


20 March 2017
Trans 8, 0.19

Helen de Hoop (Radboud University Nijmegen)

Title: Syntax and semantics of comparative and equative particles in Dutch
Present-day Dutch shows an alternation reflecting a transition from the use of the comparative particle dan ‘than’ towards the particle als ‘as’ in comparisons of inequality. I argue that this transition, and similarly the replacement of denn/dann by als in Early New High German, and als ‘as’ by wie ‘how’ in present-day German, results from a conflict between two competing principles, Economy and Iconicity. With respect to the comparative cycle, Jäger (2010) appeals to the principle of Economy, but in order to account for the whole comparative cycle, Iconicity has to be brought into play as well. Jäger (2013) proposes a semantic typology of comparison constructions in which similatives are unmarked and unspecified for comparison meaning, whereas comparatives are the most marked, and equatives are in between. By contrast, I propose that the comparative particles als in German and dan in Dutch have grammaticalized into meaningless particles that do not carry a comparison meaning.