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Comparatives and superlatives

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					Comparatives and superlatives

-er/-est more/most

How are they formed? (depends mostly on syllable structure, with some
wrinkles).

1. Short adjectives and adverbs (one syllable)
      -er -est
      faster, bigger

      Wrinkle: If adjective is from a past participle, then we often use more/most.
      more tired

      Wrinkle: With normally ungradable adjective, we can also use more/most.
      more dead, more male

2. Two syllables
       With some, there's an option of -er/-est or more/most
       With others, you must use more/most. It often depends on the specific word,
or the specific type of ending the word has.

3. More than two syllables: always more/most
      more intelligent

4. There are some irregular forms (big/better/best)
             many/more/most
             much/more/most
External syntax: where do they come in sentences?



X verb comparative than Y
Maths was more difficult than spelling.
X verb the superlative type class
Everest is the highest mountain in the world.

[Exercise:
Using either (a) the Web, or (b) the Brown corpus, or (c) the on-line British National
Corpus, collect at least 100 examples of comparatives and 100 of superlatives with
more/ most. Of these, how many follow one of the two patterns given in the book.
Can you make any observations about the ones that don't follow the pattern?]

Comparative degree modification more generally

Scales, regions, reference points

      1. In a general region (very intelligent)

      2. At a contextually determined reference point
             (this /that intelligent)

      3. Compared to a relative standard
               as intelligent
              more intelligent
              less intelligent
      The relative standard often defined n an
       as- or than-construction

      4. Compared to a region defined (usually) by result
            too intelligent
            intelligent enough [Note order switch]
            so intelligent
      The result-region is usually given as a result clause
            (that-clause, or an infinitival structure)
Separation expressions

      With more (-er), less, and too we can indicate the degree of separation from
the comparison point or region.
      far more intelligent
      three pounds heavier
      much less important
      a little bit too hot [NOTE order switch]

      The separation expressions are:
      way, far
      a quanitifier: much, several, many, a lot, etc.
      a measure (three pounds, a little bit)

Degree modification of nouns

There are limitations and idiosyncracies here:
[NOTE the order switches with a]

      A very big man
      A bigger man
      As big a man
      That big a man
            * That big men
            * The as big men
            * Several as big men
      Too small a pencil
      So creative a teacher

      Such big pancakes
      Such a big pancake
      Two such honest people

Nouns treated as gradable (genius, idiot, hothead, prima donna, writer,
composer, etc. etc.) Not only adjectives and adverbs, but also nouns can be treated
as gradable and thus the degrees on the scale can be compared. Usually, we use of
before the nouns, thus converting the noun to a prepositional phrase.

      Fred isn't as much of a hothead as Mary.
      Harry is enough of an idiot.
I'm a little bit of a liar.
He is so much more of a bureaucrat than she is.

These only work in singular.
      *The older employees are so much more of bureaucrats
       than the young employees.

				
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