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I'm reading Syntax of the Comparative Clause Construction in English by Joan W. Bresnan. The author says:

The comparative clause construction in English is almost notorious for its syntactic complexity.

What accounts for the fact that in (A), (i) and (ii) can be read as (roughly) synonymous, while (iii) and (iv) cannot?

A I. I've never seen a man taller than my father.

II. I've never seen a taller man than my father.

lll. I've never seen a man taller than my mother.

IV. *I've never seen a taller man than my mother.

Why does (iv) depart from grammaticality in (B)?

B I. Jack eats caviar more than he eats mush.

II. Jack eats more caviar than he eats mush.

lll. Jack eats caviar more than he sleeps.

IV. *Jack eats more caviar than he sleeps.

What explains the ungrammaticality of (Civ)?

C I. I am more angry today than I was yesterday.

II. I am angrier today than I was yesterday.

lll. I am more angry than sad.

IV. *I am angrier than sad.

For what reason is (iii) so much less acceptable than (iv) in (D) ?

D i. Mary is more than six feet tall.

ii. Mary is taller than six feet.

iii. * Mary is more than five feet short.

IV. Mary is shorter than five feet.

Even after I digested the author's dissertation I couldn't understand the answers to those questions except the A, where the permutation of taller implies the anomaly that my mother is a man. What is compared in A(IV) is how tall a man my mother is. This is ok, I understand it.

According to the author's analyse in B the ungrammaticality is related to the transitivity of the verb sleep, but I don't see how this fact affects the grammar of the sentence.

I see C the most incomprehensible.

Regarding D, the author says:

To understand the ungrammaticality of D(iii), we must note that certain adjectives, including "privative" adjectives like short, do not admit modifiers of definite measurement, but these adjectives do permit comparison: He's less short than I thought.

Please let me know your thoughts on this.

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Comparisons have to be for like grammatical structures regardless of what they are: verb, nouns, clauses. etc.

FIRST ANSWER:

lll. Jack eats caviar more than he sleeps. [the verbs are parallel;the actions of eating and sleeping are being compared;this is grammatical]

IV. *Jack eats more caviar than he sleeps. [comparatives have to compare like grammatical structures. (A verb cannot be compared to a noun)

COMPARE: Jack eats more caviar than lobster. (That is two nouns, it is grammatical.)

Parallelism (like grammatical structure) is not present in IV.

SECOND ANSWER:

X eats more [noun] than [noun]. Comparing like things.

COMPARE: X eat more caviar than he dreams dreams. [that is OK but silly, for sure].

That is why IV is not grammatical.

ANSWER THREE:Ill. I am more angry than sad VERSUS IV. *I am angrier than sad.

The same principle applies here:

I am more angry than (I am) sad. The comparison is for a like predicate. That's fine. AKA: I am angrier than I am sad. To be angry and to be sad are being compared.

COMPARE: I am angrier than [you, him, her, their friends etc.]. In this example a subject (noun) has to be compared to another noun. This house is whiter than that house.

I am angrier than sad is wrong because two parallel structures are not being compared. That would be comparing a predicate to an adjective which is not grammatical.

FOURTH ANSWER: Mary is more than five feet short.

In English, a person's or object's height is given by the idiom: to be x [feet/inches or meter/millimeters] + tall. Therefore the sentence is not idiomatic.

Unless it means: Mary is more than five feet short [of winning the race]. For a person's height though, the phrase [five feet short] is not idiomatic in English. More than x [measurement] short may only be used to express a distance from something. And then, it is not a comparative.

However, the adjectives tall and short may be used comparatively: Mary is more than five feet shorter than the wall. Mary is a foot shorter than John.

I didn't answer the first question because the OP answered it himself.

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To answer your first question...

I've never seen a fatter frog than it.

Presumably, it is also a frog.

I've never seen a frog fatter than it.

It could by anything with girth.

When one of the comparands is an entity with attributes (fat frog), the other comparand must be the same kind of entity (frog).

I've never seen a taller man than my mother. fail

Mother is not a man so the comparison fails.

When one of the comparands is simply an attribute (taller), the other comparand must have that attribute in at least a minimal degree.

I've never seen a man taller than my mother.

Mother does have height even if mother may be short. The height of the men you've seen is compared to mother's height. If mother is short or tall, you have been living in a land where the men are no taller than she is.

When the comparands are actions rather than entities, action must be compared with action. he sleeps is an action and must be compared to an action. eats caviar is an action. caviar is not an action.

Jack eats caviar more than he sleeps.

Jack eats more caviar than he sleeps. fail

With respect to tall/short, long/brief.

With more than and comparisons of degree, what must be compared are qualities that express affirmatively extent or degree. Adjectives like short and brief are not such, inasmuch as they do not affirmatively express extent or degree but rather the absence of it, negative height and negative duration.

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