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Re: syllable importance

From:And Rosta <a.rosta@...>
Date:Friday, February 20, 2004, 15:18
John Cowan:
> Andreas Johansson scripsit: > > > For some reason, "cleverer, cleverest" would invariably turn up as an > > example of an inflectionally compared English adjective in my English > > textbooks back in elementary and high school. > > Okay, okay, an exception to the exception. Googling shows that "cleverer" > and "more clever" are about even, but "cleverest" beats "most clever" > about 3 to 1, so the avoidance of "-erer" is still operating. > > Similarly, although "-ly" can be added to any adjective with a few lexical > exceptions such as "good:well", it's avoided for adjectives already ending > in "-ly" such as "lonely": "lonelily" has only about 400 hits compared > to six million for "lonely", whereas "happily" has two million hits > compared to 39 million for "happy", a more reasonable ratio. > > In addition, many of the hits for "lonelily" refer to the title of a > specific song, and others may represent a nonce compound of "lone lily". > I doubt that there are more than a few straightforward native-speaker > prose instances.
The double -ly contraint applies mainly to a sequence of two -ly morphemes. So _cowardlily_ is really bad, while _sillily_ is nigh on impeccable. My 2 cents (or tuppenyworth) on -er/-est is that there are no rules as such. There is simply a prototype based on the high-frequency cases, and acceptability is proportional to consistency with the prototype. (For a hardcore formalist like me, this amounts to facing the facts and admitting defeat.) "More/most X" is always grammatical, but its acceptability out of context tends to vary inversely with the acceptability of the suffixed counterpart. --And.