Comparative insights into comparison

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Abstract

Using data from the British and Australian components of the ICE corpus, this paper describes and quantifies aspects of the comparative clauses conjoined with correlative than and as. The data is compared in three ways, to show:

1. patterns of distribution for the two constructions;

2. their spread across different genres of speech and writing;

3. the similarity or otherwise of their use in Britain and Australia.

The data is also used to comment on theoretical constructs such as the symmetrical scale proposed for scalar comparatives, and the extent to which the comparative clause expresses the yardstick for comparison. In both British and Australian data, the distribution of correlative than and as clauses proves quite asymmetrical; and the fact that comparative clauses consist regularly of anaphoric, exophoric and elliptical constituents means that their informational content is limited. Strategic changes vested in the comparative verb phrase (e.g. in modality, aspect, polarity) and the quite frequent use of mental process verbs suggest that the role of such clauses is interpersonal rather than referential, and designed to provide alternative perspectives on the discourse. The findings show that the scalar comparative clause does not regularly work as the yardstick for comparison (in the same way as the comparative phrase), and that grammatical accounts of it need to recognize its discoursal and rhetorical functions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-68
Number of pages12
JournalWorld Englishes
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1996

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