Theoretical aspects of degrees comparison. Comparativa analysis of degrees of comparison

The pillars of any degree of comparison. Morphological composition of the adjectives. An introduction on degrees of comparison. Development and stylistic potential of degrees of comparison. General notes on comparative analysis. Contrastive linguistics.

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Example: O prea frumoasa fata. (M. Eminescu)

A most beautiful girl.

Here we should stress the fact again that the superlative forms, especially those with intensifiers, are emphatic and thus belong to a stylistic category as well.

2.4 Degrees of comparison in certain contextual examples

Talking about the degrees of comparison in general, I cannot pass on without mentioning the certain contextual examples when we may use them or omit them. Each form is used in its ways, as everyone shows particular cases and situations.

In the book Great expectations by Charles Dickens, the author have used the right rules of the English Grammar and demonstrated the necessity of the comparisons in all day speech. We have compared the English variant of the book with the Romanian one, which was translated by Popescu Bogdan under the name of Marile Sperante

Making a percentage of using of each form of comparison in the book named before, I can say that in different cases when the comparisons are used, different percentage are.


Degree of comparison




Null comparative




Positive degree




Comparative degree




Superlative degree








Irregular forms







A) Null comparative

There are adjectives that does not admit comparative degree. For example "complete" is one of those adjectives that does not admit of comparative degrees. Other adjectives that are included in this list are as follows:


She had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible. (p.32)

Incepuse s cread c foarte puine lucruri sunt cu adevrat imposibile. (P.33)

In this example we can see that the author uses a comparative in which the starting point for comparison is not started. We do not know what things are compared with. We may presuppose that the protagonist is a persevering person, only those persons think and belief that very few things are really impossible.

The adjective itself cannot have degrees of comparison. We cannot say that there are things more or less impossible.

Example: This woman must seem incredibly intelligent to that man (p.32)

Aceasta femeie parea incredibil de inteligenta pentru acel barbat.(p.32)

To analyse the sentence we can do the following analysis: words are grouped into lower constituents. For example incredibly" modifies "intelligent, so the sequence incredibly intelligent is a phrasal constituent of the sentence. Also, following the analysis, 'this" modifies "woman", so the sequence this woman forms a single structural unit, a constituent of the sentence. The same happens in the sequence that man. But furthermore also the sequence to that man is another constituent. To the transformational grammar, the phrases incredibly intelligent and to that man both modify "seem, then the whole sequence seem incredibly intelligent to that teacher is also a constituent.

B) Positive degree

The positive degree of an adjective or adverb is in its simple form. It is used to denote or say the mere existence of some quality of what we speak about. It is used when no comparison is made. We have found a lot of positive degrees in the book under study. This degree is used to make a description of peoples, things or phenomena in the book.

The next thing is, to get into that beautiful garden. (p.53)

Acum trebuie s ajung n acea grdin minunat. (p.54)

In this example we observe that no comparison is made. The adjective beautiful is used just to describe the place were the characters are. An interesting thing in this example is that the Romanian variant of beautiful is not frumoasa, as we used to think, but minunata. I consider that the beauty of that garden was emphasized by means of adjective minunata, which is considered to show a higher level of beauty.

Beautiful, beautiful soup! (p.43)

Minunat, minunat sup! (p.43)

If we speak from the stylistic point of view, we observe that the author used repetition to emphasize the feelings the character is feeling when eating such a beautiful soup. In this example the adjective is used with the meaning of lovely, special.

There was a large mushroom growing near her. (p.35)

Era o ciuperc mare care cretea aproape de ea.(p.35)

As in the examples above, the positive degree is used to make a description of things. It is used to denote the mere existence of some quality of what the author speaks about. It is used when no comparison is made. The adjective large is used in its simple form, without any suffix.

The same goes in the following example:

This seemed to her a good opportunity for making her escape. (p.4)

Aceasta-i pru o bun ocazie de a scapa. (p.4)

In this case we observe a maximum parallelism between source text and target one. The level of equivalence is the highest one. The linguistic units good opportunity and o buna ocazie have one and the same meaning, both in English and Romanian.

C) Comparative degree

The comparative degree of an adjective or adverb denotes more degree of the quality than the positive degree, and is used when two persons, animals or things, or two sets/groups of persons, animals or things are compared with one another.

I am older than you, and must know better. (p. 43)

Sunt mai btrn dect tine i tiu mai bine. (p. 43)

Here we have two persons and the comparison is made to show that one is more in the quality of being old than the other. The word `than' is the conjunction we must use in the comparative degree.

Others examples from the book, with the comparative degree are:

It means to make anything prettier. (p. 33)

nseamna a face ceva mai frumos. (p.33)

Comparing English and Romanian variants of the same example, here we could say that we observe a very close coincidence on the semantic level., on the formal level the synthetic forms are not used in Romanian. The comparative degree both in English and Romanian denotes more degree of the quality than the positive degree.

Curiouser and curiouser! she cried (she was so much surprised that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). (p.59)

Since syntactical forms of degrees of comparison of adjectives are characteristic only for monosyllabic and few polysyllabic adjectives, violation from this rule can have a stylistic function. In the above example the word `curiouser' amuses the reader and at the same time gives away the nervousness of the heroine, which is accentuated in the author's commentaries.

D) Superlative degree

The superlative degree of an adjective or adverb denotes the most degree of the quality, and is used for more than two persons, animals or things -- one against the rest -- one having the highest degree of the quality in/of the rest. The Definite Article `the' is used before the adjective word in its superlative form, and the preposition `of' is used with people, animals and things and `in' or `under' with places and position.

Example: She launched a most significant personal attack on him. (p. 11)

Ea a lansat unu dintre cele mai simnificative atacuri la adresa lui.(p.11)

While the phrase a most significant personal attack gives the idea of rather a high degree of the quality expressed, irrespective of any directly introduced or implied comparison with other attacks on him. It is the exclusion of the outwardly superlative adjective from a comparison that makes it into a simple elative, with its most constituent turned from the superlative auxiliary into a kind of a lexical intensifier.

It's the most curious thing I ever say in my life. (p. 15)

E cel mai curios lucru pe care l-am spus n viaa mea. (p.15)

A lot of adjectives make the style of the text ornate (or flowery), and slow down the action in the text, as one feels that one has to concentrate one's attention on the details of static entities or phenomena, and not to the action.

She looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. (p. 29)

Privi spre cea mai frumoas grdin pe care ai vzut-o vreodat. (p.29)

The Definite Article `the' is not used with the superlative form most when it is used to mean very, and when it is used to indicate the possession of a quality in a very high degree but without any comparison:

Is it the best way to go for a beginner though?

Due to the use of the adjective `good' in the superlative degree, evaluation and subjectivity are shown in explicit form. Despite the fact that, the adjective `best' has strikingly positive evaluation in this case it acquires negative connotation. It is due to the fact that in this case the adjective `best' is used in the sentence which bears the type of rhetorical question.

E) Intensifiers.

By this time, my sister was quite desperate. (p.33)

Intre timp, sora era extem de disperata. (p.33)

Quite combines with all kind of scalar adjectives. But, like the other modifiers, also co-occurs with adjective which are basically extreme and limit adjectives. The gradability feature is then modulated to make a good match. The situation is slightly different in the case of quite as compared to most other modifiers, since it has two different degree reading. If the adjective is an extreme one, as in our case( desperate) the prediction is that quite tends to be interpreted as a maximizer.

The situation in which was protagonist's sister was one with no chance to turn in the right direction. They have no solution to the problems they had.

He said quite vivaciously.(p.3)

Spuse foarte vesel. (p.3)

Quite is the only degree modifier in English which is a member of two different paradigms and hence capable of expressing two different degrees. It gets its maximizer when combined with non-scalar adjectives, and its moderator reading when it combines with scalar adjective. In our case, the adverb vivaciously a is a non-scalar one, that's way we can attribute a mazimizer reading to quite.

2.5 A numerical analysis of degrees of comparison in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

As I have mentioned in the theoretical part of this Course Paper that degrees of comparison are more important than we think. A lot of people find them as simple words constructions that they just used to use in their everyday speech and we do not pay attention at the frequency of using them. When somebody speaks, we easy determine the nouns and the verbs he uses, as they are the main parts of speech and are well seen.

We cannot say the same thing about the degrees of comparison because it is used to give a more expressive description to the words it applies to. Also we can use them to make the style of speech ornate and flowery.

We can conclude that people know about the importance of the degrees of comparison, but they do not pay attention to this fact. They use them as something usual and without wondering why or how frequently they should use them.

So, we decided to pay attention to the frequency of using degrees of comparison in a concrete literary work. To have a concrete demonstration of the ideas I have written before, we have selected a chapter from the book Great expectations by Charles Dickens and I have read it with special attention. First of all, I looked for degrees of comparison and, after counting the number of all types of degrees of comparison used in the first chapter of the book mentioned above, I have made a chart with all the examples I have found.

Types of Degrees of Comparison

Examples from Chapter I

Percentage (%)

Null comparative





















To illustrate the frequency of using degrees of comparison, we decided that it should be better to do this with the help of a diagram which is more concrete and more helpful in our case.

In this numerical diagram we can see that the most used degree is the positive degree and we consider that it is the most used degree of comparison in general, both in colloquial and literary language. It goes without saying that when we want to describe a thing, a person or a phenomenon itself, when we want o say more about their characteristics, age, colour, size, shape, in the majority of cases we use adjective in positive degree. In this case we can see the relationship between the adjectives and the noun to which it applies. In order to uncover the nature of the adjective, we must be familiar with both the denotation of the adjective and with its relation to the noun it qualifies.

Adjectives and adverbs with irregular degrees of comparison take the second place as concerning the frequency of using such constructions.

Now, it does not require a profound analysis to see that, in spite that there are some adjectives that form the degrees of comparison in an irregular way, they occupy the second place.

We use the comparative degree of adjectives when we want to emphasize that an object is superior compared to the other.

The use of more comparison will result in the descriptive richness of the text, whereas a lack of them may result in descriptive sparseness or thinness. The second goes null comparative, as Lewis Carol uses a lot of unique things that cannot be compared. The positive is the third, as adjectives may make the style of the text ornate (or flowery), and slow down the action in the text. The superlative is less used as the author think that there are few things that can be put at superlative.

So, analyzing the things said above, we can conclude the following things:

-The use of comparatives shows the interest the text has in relating the qualities of something to those of another thing.

- The degrees of comparison convey the degree of expressiveness produced by the adjective of indication and so, it is very close to the stylistic category of expressiveness.


English grammar has been built over millennia in an eclectic fashion from a wide variety of grammars, mostly from Europe. Words assimilated from other parts of the world during the British Empire stage are shaped to fit into the established grammar.

The purpose of this diploma paper that was to show the differences between the use of the English degrees of comparison and Romanian one in different contexts was achieved. Without knowing the function of the degrees of comparison, the non-native English speakers face many difficulties in communicating their ideas in an accurate form.

What we have learnt about adjectives is that most English adjectives have comparative and superlative forms. These are generally constructed in one of two ways: either by suffixes (big, bigger, biggest) or by the use of the grammatical particles more and most. Speaking about stylistic functions of adjectives and their degrees of comparison we have learnt that the main functions of adjectives is to give more expressive description to the entities found in a text; so, the use of more adjectives will result in the descriptive richness of the text, whereas a lack of them may result in descriptive sparseness or thinness. A lot of adjectives may, however, make the style of the text ornate (or flowery), and slow down the action in the text. We have also learnt that adjectives may have a humorous effect on the reader. Now we can understand why so many authors and writers use such a great amount of adjectives in their works. They do it because their aim is to instill a certain attitude to the article or book into a reader. We have also learnt such nicety which will help us to make our speech much more expressive, as that, If the speaker doesn't want to tell something right to somebody's face or to be harsh or categorically call things by their proper names, he can add the suffix -ish to the adjective and by this he will form so-called modal tactful words.

The results of the research, the directions of the investigation, the methods used, serve as a starting point for similar studies based on other related or unrelated languages. They also serve to establish the means of expressing the conceptual categories of degrees of comparison and tendencies in their development, to establish the degree of coincidence and non-coincidence between the given categories in English and Romanian concerning form and content.

The results could also be used in solving some important confrontational linguistic problems of translation, teaching English to students speaking Romanian and can also serve as material for a special course in Comparative Linguistics. Though contrastive analysis in the field of grammatical morphology has been considered as part of confrontational linguistics for a long time, there is no clear cut distinction between the confrontation of related and unrelated languages, using the results of comparative philology of cognate languages in their confrontation with unrelated languages. The confrontation of languages can be carried out by comparing: a) unrelated languages; b) closely related languages; c) distantly related languages, and d) also by simultaneous confrontation of related and unrelated languages.

The main ideas which I have analyzed and selected from this diploma paper are the followings:

* The ability to establish orderings among objects and make comparisons between them according to the amount or degree to which they possess some property is a basic component of human cognition.

* All languages have syntactic categories that express gradable concepts, and all languages have designated comparative constructions, which are used to express orderings between two objects with respect to the degree or amount to which they possess some property.

* English, due to the complex etymology of its lexicon, has two parallel systems of comparison.

* The degree of comparison may be expressed morphologically, or syntactically.

* There are three Degrees of Comparison in English: positive, comparative and superlative.

* We use the superlative to compare somebody/something with the whole group that she/he/it belongs to.

* To say that people, things etc are unequal in a particular way, we can use comparative adjectives/adverbs

* Max Morenberg, Otto Jespersen Otto and James E. Augerot classify the adjectives in a original way. It this system belong and so-called "absolute" adjectives.

* In Romanian the categories of comparison and of intensity know a much richer configuration than Latin, having a remarkable expressive potential.

While working on the diploma paper different sources were used, which were very useful for the work

Different methods were used: analysis, generalization, skimming, comparison and others.

The work was useful, interesting and pleasant. I think without knowing the degrees of comparison, you cannot express yourself clearly and so you cannot be understood by the others. So, here comes my course paper to avoid such mistakes and problems and to make everything clear enough.

All in all, it was very interesting to investigate the degrees of comparison in English and Romanian and this diploma paper is far from being the end of the investigation.


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