The reference point in an explicit comparison (or contrast), i.e., an expression indicating that something is similar/analogous to, different from, the same as, or an alternative to something else.

The marker of the “something else” (the ground in the figure–ground relationship) is given the label ComparisonRef:

The comparison is often made with respect to some dimension or attribute, the Characteristic, which may or may not be scalar. The comparison may be figurative, employing simile, hyperbole, or spatial metaphor (close to in the sense of ‘similar to’). The ComparisonRef may even be a desirable or hypothetical/irrealis event or state (It was as it should have been).

Prototypical prepositions include than, as (including the second item in the asas construction), like, unlike. Prominent construals are to (Goal for similar-thing) and from (Source for dissimilar-thing).

Locus construal for relative locative position on scale#

Prototypically-locative prepositions that are relative (above, below, between, under, etc.—in contrast to the absolute ones like at, in, and on)—invite a comparison between two things. Where the relation between governor and object exists mainly to compare two items (or their values) on an abstract scale, and the preposition metaphorically expresses this relation as a relative location, ComparisonRefLocus applies. Examples include:

  • ComparisonRefLocus:

    • Scale of measurement: Your heart rate is above 100 bpm/normal/mine. 036

    • Reference point for cost: The price is within my budget. 037

    • Scale of progress: My team is ahead_of your team in the tournament. 038

    • Relative preference: I prefer this restaurant over that one.1
      [paraphrase: I like this restaurant better than that one.]

This excludes absolute prepositions, as in #040#042, as well as prepositional phrases conveying circumstantial information about a scene (e.g. place, time, manner) or cost (#043#046).

See also Approximator.

Source and Goal construals#

Resemblance and equivalence may be expressed with to, while difference may be expressed with from:

Ancillary construal#

Category as standard#

An indirect comparison can be made by relating something to a category to which it may or may not belong. The category stands for its members or prototypes. For example, in:

  • He is short for a basketball player. (ComparisonRef) 017

the category basketball player serves as the standard against which he is deemed short.

Sufficiency and excess#

Sufficiency and excess can be expressed with adverbs (too, enough, insufficiently, etc.) and adjectives (insufficient) that license a PP or infinitival expressing the consequence.3 For example:

Playing basketball is the desired outcome, but it is conditional on some scalar property relative to an implicit point on the scale—in #018 and #019, a minimum height associated with playing basketball. As a consequence, the desired outcome may or may not be blocked. Thus, the consequence phrase helps to establish a reference point of comparison.

As discussed under Purpose, if the consequence phrase in such a construction meets the criteria for purposes, it is labeled ComparisonRefPurpose. Otherwise, the non-purpose consequence is labeled ComparisonRefGoal.

MannerComparisonRef construal#

This applies to an analogy describing the how of an event (be it agentive or perceptual):

However, where an analogy is an external comment on an event rather than filling in a role of the event, it is simply ComparisonRef. Contrast:

  • You ate a whole pie like my cousin did. 022

    • Role reading: The way in which you ate a pie was similar. (MannerComparisonRef)

    • External comment reading: You ate a whole pie, and so did my cousin. (ComparisonRef)

Analogy and non-analogy readings of like#

In descriptions, adverbial like, as_if, etc. can be ambiguous, especially in a scene of perception. For example:

Similarly for seem like, feel like, etc.

Another ambiguity can arise when like occurs with what as its extracted object. In the following sentences, the most likely interpretation is not one of analogy between two things, but rather an open-ended description. (Who does it look like?, by contrast, implicates an analogy to an individual.) We therefore treat like what as a PP idiom, and label it MannerComparisonRef:

A how-paraphrase is generally possible, though how may suggest a positive or negative evaluation is available, whereas what is more neutral.

Constrast unaccusative perception verb + of combinations:

Category exemplars and set members#

When governed by an NP naming a category or set, like is ambiguous between exemplifying a member, as in #029 (Inclusive/nonrestrictive reading) as well as #031, and merely indicating similarity, as in #029 (Exclusive/restrictive reading) as well as #030:

  • Colbert frequently promotes comedians like himself. 029

    • [Exclusive/restrictive reading: similar to himself (but not including himself)] (ComparisonRef)

    • [Inclusive/nonrestrictive reading: such as/including himself (he promotes himself, among others)] (PartPortionComparisonRef)

  • I don’t know anyone else like her. [anyone else similar to her] (ComparisonRef) 030

  • It must be great to have a wonderful doctor like her/she is. [It must be great to have her because she is a wonderful doctor] (IdentityComparisonRef) 031

Instead-of alternatives#

ComparisonRef also applies to a default or already established thing for which something else stands in or is chosen as an alternative.

May be construed spatially:

This is similar to the static-preference use of over illustrated in #011. See also Ancillary and Theme.

  1. This is closely related to the notion of an alternative as in #035

  2. American English. Interestingly, different to occurs in British English. 

  3. See the Degree-Consequence construction (Bonial et al., 2018). 

Category Members (0)

Supercategory: Configuration