Matushansky (2008)

De Arbres

Matushansky, Ora 2008. 'On the attributive nature of superlatives', Syntax 11/1, 26-90.


 The standard view of superlatives treats them as a subkind of adjectives.
 However, in many languages, superlatives require the presence of a determiner, even in
 the predicate position. This leads to an apparent contradiction, since it is independently
 known that determiners syntactically combine with extended NP projections and are
 excluded with APs. This issue is resolved if superlative adjectives always appear in an
 attributive (modificational) position. Superlative phrases without an overt noun (e.g., in
 the predicative position) modify a null head noun. I show that this hypothesis
 immediately explains the restrictions on the distribution of superlatives in languages as
 diverse as Russian, French, German, Dutch, Breton, Spanish and Portuguese. I propose
 that the modificational nature of superlative adjectives can be derived from their
 semantics, and I argue that such a proposal yields a natural explanation of the behavior
 of superlatives in Hebrew and Persian. Finally, I discuss the interaction between this
 theory and the standard, movement-based analyses of comparatives and superlatives
 and provide an explanation for apparent counterexamples.