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Re: Degrees of adjectives

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Saturday, February 5, 2005, 19:48
On Saturday, February 5, 2005, at 06:53 , Tristan McLeay wrote:

> On 5 Feb 2005, at 12.41 pm, # 1 wrote:
> The standard grammar says it's ungrammatical (most adjectives either > take -er/-est or more/most; some can take either, like 'common').
Yes, monosyllabic adjectives have -er, -est; disyllabic vary between the synthetic & periphrastic forms, e.g. 'easy ~ easier ~ easiest' is standard, but usage certainly varies with _common_ (I sy 'more common'). With longer adjective the forms with _more_ and _most_ are usual. But these are general tendencies. I have heard things list _more sweet_ and _beautifuller_.
> is, however, the fashion amongst younger people to conflate the two > endings, so that you get any of: > > sweeter ~ more sweet ~ more sweeter
Yep - _more sweeter_ especially was very common among my college students. But double comparatives are IIRC attested in Shakespeare (if not earlier) and have almostly certainly been part of colloquial speech for centuries, just like the double (or more) negatives that prescriptive grammarians decry: "I ain't never told no-one".
> as far as I can tell, they're all equivalent in this use. Presumably > this is just another stage in English's conversion from postposed > modifiers to preposed ones.
Maybe - but it's been around for centuries. There has certainly been a move over the centuries towards more periphrastic forms. I think the double comparative, however, is more akin to the double negative phenomenon - the fondness in spoken for redundancy, which can be useful if there is background interference.
> > (Note that while 'sweetest' and 'most sweet' are both valid in this > non-standard use, I don't think 'most sweetest' is,
I have heard it. But 'valid' sounds like a prescriptive (or even proscriptive) judgment. As far as I can see, 'most sweet' is as valid or non-valid as _more sweet_. Some people do use double superlatives. [snip]
> Well, if you did just say 'that drink is sweeter', then it means anyway > 'that drink is the sweetest of the two'.
> There is a distinction however > between 'that's one of the sweeter drinks' and 'that's one of the > sweetest drinks'; the former is more general than the latter.
That's interesting. Certainly neither sentence would seem unusual if, say, someone was tasting a range of drinks. The former sentence would imply the person was, at that stage, putting the drinks into _two_ groups: the sweeter drinks, and those not so sweet. The latter would certainly imply that the taster was already ranking the drinks into various categories of sweetness, with drink X being one of those in the top category. I wonder how those distinctions are handled in a language like French or Spanish :) [snip]
>> I think that if the comparative and the superlative are the same it >> leads to >> too much ambiguity... don't you think?
Presumably languages like french & Spanish have ways of avoiding the ambiguity.
> Only when your trying to discuss your two younger brothers without > using their names! (Another case when a distinction is handy: My > younger brother's name is Lachlan, but my youngest brother's name is > Kieran.)
:) How does that go into French or Spanish? Ray =============================================== =============================================== Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight, which is not so much a twilight of the gods as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]