Methods for the expression of comparison in modern English

Adjectives and comparatives in modern English. Definition, grammatical overview of the term adjectives. Expression and forms of comparative in the language. Morphological, lexical ways of expressing. Features and basic principles of their expression.

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Methods for the expression of comparison in modern English


adjectives comparativ language lexical

The relevance of the research. It is useful to examine these forms and structures from the point of view of what makes them difficult to acquire for language learners and then move into effective methods and techniques to help learners to acquire these important forms and structures.

omparison can be expressed by a certain class of adjectives and adverbs. In both types of comparison there must be a standard of reference in order to state that one thing is superior, equal, or inferior in quantity or quality, or likeness. A comparison can be made using any major part of speech. However, a good place to start, when teaching learners' comparison, is by means of adjectives and adverbs in their comparative form. Specifically, in English, the forms of degree comparatives are the inflectional morpheme {-er}, or a quantifier word form such as more or less before an adjective or adverb. In utterances, comparison indicates how a main clause is similar to or different from a subordinate (complementary) clause. Syntactically, comparative clauses and phrases commonly contain the complementizer as to express similarity, and the complementizer than to express difference.

In linguistics, the comparative is a syntactic construction that serves to express a comparison between two (or more) entities or groups of entities in quality, quantity, or degree; it is one of the degrees of comparison, alongside the positive and the superlative. The comparative is signaled in English by the suffix - er or by a word of comparison (as, more, less) and the conjunction - or preposition-like word as or than. The comparative is frequently associated with adjectives and adverbs because these words take the - er suffix or modifying word more or less (e.g., faster, more intelligent, less wasteful); it can also, however, appear when no adjective or adverb is present, for instance with nouns (e.g., more men than women). The syntax of comparative constructions is poorly understood due to the complexity of the data. In particular, the comparative frequently occurs with independent mechanisms of syntax such as coordination and forms of ellipsis (gapping, pseudogapping, null complement anaphora, stripping, verb phrase ellipsis). The interaction of the various mechanisms complicates the analysis. Most if not all languages have some means of forming the comparative, although these means can vary significantly from one language to the next.

The object of the research is the comparative on advanced semantic theory.

The subject of the research is the expression, forms of comparative in the language.

The purpose of the research is to identify expression and forms of comparative in the language.

The method of the research is descriptive method is based on advanced semantic theory, which allows functionality and identification comparative constructions.

1. Adjectives and comparatives in modern English

1.1 Adjectives and comparatives

Opposites referred to as having positive and negative polarity (high-low, good-bad). In English, positive polarity adjectives are unmarked and negative polarity adjectives are marked. Gradable adjectives in English can be modified by an intensifier, such as very as their properties exist on a scale or continuum. There are adjectives that do not readily permit degree modification, they are referred to as non-gradable and generally denote categorical properties as opposed to scalar properties. For example, perfect, impossible, and dead are adjectives which do not have degrees of the quality that they denote, i.e. something or someone cannot be more or less perfect, impossible, or dead. Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman say of the distinction between the use of absolute adjectives and their relative forms used in comparative and equative constructions. The absolute use of an adjective makes an absolute assertion about the referent of the adjective (e.g. tall, small). [1]

The relative forms, e.g. tall(er), small(er), are used in comparison because they make no absolute assertion about the referents tallness or smallness. However, according to Jovanovi, the dichotomy that an adjective is either absolute or relative can be slightly misleading. Jovanovi points out that many adjectives that have a denotative absolute sense can also have a relative figurative sense. An example of this can be seen in the use of dead in a figurative statement such as: Fred feels more dead after eating a big lunch than after eating a big breakfast. This type of use of an adjective has implications for learners, in that, many non-gradable adjectives can have and gradable senses when their meaning is extended, such as in a metaphor. Although, every major part of speech in English will permit comparison, adjectives, present a good starting point to teach the comparative forms. The phonological explanation employed by many textbooks, in order to teach the choice distinction between the {-er} inflection and the periphrastic form, is based on syllable count and stress. If an adjective or adverb has one syllable, or if the adjective has two syllables and ends in a final unstressed it takes the inflectional {-er} endings. Many other twosyllable words which have a stressed first syllable and an unstressed second syllable ending in - ly, - ow, or - le most often take the inflectional ending. It is important to note that two syllable adjectives that add a derivational prefix still take the same inflection as the base form would without the prefix. The rules or tendencies of two syllable adjectives are not as rigid as the prior explanations make it seem. The choice of form may depend on, for example, dialect, register (i.e. informal/formal), pragmatic reasons, or may be discourse or discipline specific. This creates some fuzziness for the learner and a teacher would be well informed to explicitly have learners practice with suppleted forms and forms which do not follow the syllable tendencies outlined above or can readily alternate their forms. Use and meaning issues Doetjes states that it is generally the case that morphological inflections for degree combine most readily with adjectives while the periphrastic degree forms tend to have a larger distribution among lexical words found that the periphrastic more is used in many cases where the {-er} form would be expected. According to her study, the reasons include, a speakers desire to emphasize a positive comparison, to maintain a parallel structure to a preceding clause which utilized more, and collocational reasons. [2]

Less and fewer are the negative degree forms which are the counterparts of more. There are use issues which occur with these forms that learners should be made aware. First, less occurs most frequently with non-count nouns but can also occur with count nouns and countable plural nouns. The double marked comparative form lesser can occur in attributive function, but worser is no longer an acceptable form. Fewer is a suppletive form which can only occur with countable and plural nouns. The construction of negative equatives in place of a comparative structure also presents the learner with a use issue that should be formally addressed by a teacher. The use of a negative structure is often much more tactful than a comparative structure when the adjective has negative polarity or meaning that could be perceived in context as pejorative. In the following statements, the first marked negative equative seems much less rude to a native speaker than the second comparative example with a negative polarity adjective or even the semantically identical third comparative example with a negative polarity degree quantifier which is more marked than the first example. According to Mitchell, the third form is also a cognitively more demanding form than the first example. Dustin is not as tall as Fred. Dustin is shorter than Fred. Dustin is less tall than Fred According to Schwarzschild and Wilkinson, the bare equative construction (e.g. x is as tall as y) is vague in terms of height. This construction only makes reference to the individuals' heights as overlapping but does not describe the heights of the individuals within the whole domain of height. Therefore, equative constructions than can be fairly vague if the speaker and interlocutor do not have shared knowledge. In light of this, a learner needs to know that the equative construction says little or nothing, from a meaning standpoint, without shared knowledge.

The structure types of degree comparatives and equatives. Beyond the forms, and uses, four types of comparative constructions can be distinguished as: scalar, non-scalar, expressing equality, and expressing inequality. As was mentioned in a previous paragraph, gradable adjectives can be modified by an intensifier, such as somewhat, quite, very, or extremely, because they name a semantic notion which can be placed on a continuum of intensity. Scalar comparisons, then, are concerned with the position on some continuum or scale and are one type of grading. Adjectives and adverbs which can be inflectionally marked are scalar. Non-scalar comparisons are not concerned with grading but instead deal with issues of identity or likeness. Huddleston and Pullum uses the following examples to contrast scalar and non-scalar comparison: Scalar: Kim is as old as Pat. Non-scalar: I took the same bus as last time. From the scalar example we could also say: Kim's age is at least equal to Pat's. Kim's age is not equal to Pat's. (Kim could be older) The notions of equality and inequality can be applied to scalar comparisons, however the same is not true if applied to the non-scalar comparison: * The bus I took equals the bus I took last time. *

The bus I took does not equal the bus I took last time. The meaning is not retained in the non-scalar comparisons because non-scalar comparison is concerned with identity vs. non-identity and likeness vs. unlikeness, both of which are nongradable concepts. I took a different bus than last time. This example gives a nice representation of the four types of construction and the grammatical markers depending on the gradability of the notion being compared. Two other structures learners should understand are term comparisons and set comparisons. A term comparison makes a comparison between a primary term and secondary term where the secondary term is syntactically subordinate to the primary term. A set comparison is a comparative construction where members of a set are compared. For example, one member of a set may be compared to the other members of the same set where the one member is at the top of the scale of what is being compared.

1.2 Definition of the Term Adjectives

An adjective is a word which acts to modify a noun in a sentence. While adjectives play a large role in many languages - such as English - many other languages have no adjectives at all. In English the set of adjectives is fairly well understood, though some people include other parts of speech - such as articles like the - in the class of adjectives.

There are two main roles an adjective may take in a sentence, and with a few exceptions each adjective is able to take either role just as easily. The first role is to act as a predicative adjective, in which the adjective modifies a preceding noun as a predicate, linked by a verb. An example of a predicative adjective can be found in the sentence: A zebra is striped. in which the adjective striped is linked the subject of the sentence, zebra, by use of the copula verb to be in the is form.

The second role an adjective may take is as an attributive adjective, in which it modifies a noun by being linked directly to the noun as part of the noun phrase. An example of an attributive adjective may be seen in the sentence: `The striped zebra pranced.' in which the adjective striped is directly connected to the subject of the sentence, zebra. In English, most attributive adjectives precede the noun they are going to modify, while in many Romance languages the adjective comes after the noun. So while in English we might say `The beautiful woman.' in French we would say `Le femme jolie.' which may be literally translated as `The woman beautiful.'[6]

While most adjectives in English are able to be used just as easily either in an attributive or a predicative sense, there are some which are restricted to one role or the other. For example, the adjective sole can be used grammatically only as an attributive adjective, as can be seen in the sentence: This is the sole survivor. On the other hand, trying to use the adjective sole in the predicative role would result in the ungrammatical sentence: This survivor is sole. Other English adjectives, such as alone, may be used only as a predicative adjective, while attempts to use them attributively result in ungrammatical sentences.

Adjectives may be modified by adverbs or adverbial clauses, but not by other adjectives. Many adjectives, however, can easily translate into corresponding adverbs simply by adding the ending to them. This can be seen in pairs such as quick/quickly and happy/happily.

In English and many other languages, adjectives also have a correct and incorrect order, depending on the type of adjectives used. Most native speakers learn this order instinctively, and related mistakes are one of the most obvious signs of a non-native speaker. For example, using the adjectives red, little, and two with the noun books, most native English speakers would intuitively order the adjectives to form the sentence `The two little red books.' To non-native speakers, however, it might seem just as intuitive to say `The two red little books.' or even `The red two little books.' both of which are immediately obvious as incorrect to a native English speaker.

As mentioned earlier, not all languages use adjectives; some use other parts of speech instead to fill this role. Many Native American languages, for example, use verbs to fill the role that adjectives play in English, so that rather than `The woman is short.' we are faced with something like `The woman is shorting.' Languages that use nouns as adjectives are often more comprehensible to speakers of English, since our sentence formations can easily allow for metaphoric description using only nouns, with a verb perhaps to flavor it, such as `The sun was a blazing inferno.' instead of `The sun was hot.' English also uses abstract nouns, for example to turn `An important statement.' into `A statement of import.

Usually the modifying adverb is an intensifier (very, rather, awfully, so, terribly, extremely, most, utterly, unusually, delightfully, unbelievably, amazingly, strikingly, highly, that, etc.) The same applies to composite adverbs, such as (kind of, sort of, a good bit of, a lot of, a hell of, a great deal of, etc.):

It is terribly important for parents to be consistent [38].

This new program is unbelievably good [41].

It made me feel kind of awkward [41].

Some adverbs - still, yet, far, much, any combine with comparative adjectives (much worse, not any better, still greater, etc.)

Adverbs of degree can modify certain kinds of prepositional phrases:

They lived nearly on the top of the hill [40].

His remarks were not quite to the point [40].

Comparative adverbs are used in clauses of proportional agreement, that is, parallel clauses in which qualities or actions denoted in them increase or decrease at an equal rate [25, 177]:

The longer I think about it the less I understand your reasons [41].

To express the idea that a quality or action decreases or increases at an even rate the comparative may be repeated, the two identical forms being connected by and:

He cried louder and louder [25, 177].

There are some adverbs which may modify nouns or words of nominal character, functioning as attribute, as in: the way ahead, the trip abroad, the journey home, his return home, the sentence above (below), the day before. A few adverbs can premodify nouns without losing their adverbial character: the then president, in after years, the above sentence, the now generation.

As adverbs modify words of different classes, they accordingly occupy different positions in the sentence. In comparison with other words, adverbs may be considered as the most movable words. However, adverbs are not identical in their ability to be moved to another position in the structure. There are generally four possible positions for adverbs in the sentence [18, 397]:

1) at the head of the sentence;

2) between the subject and predicate or, if the predicate is a complicated form, the adverb appears after the first auxiliary verb, link-verb or a modal verb;

3) before the word the adverb modifies;

4) at the end of the sentence.

1.3 Grammatical overview of English Adjectives

There is not much to be said about the English adjective from the grammatical point of view. As is well know, it has neither number, nor case, nor gender distinctions. Some adjectives have, however, degrees of mparisn, which make part of the morphological system of a language. Thus, the English adjective differs materially not only from such highly inflected languages as Russian. Latin, and German, where the adjectives have a rather complicated system if forms, but even fm Modern French, which h as preserved number and gender distinctions to the present day (f. masculine singular grand, masculine plural grands, feminine singular grande, feminine plural grandes 'large').

By what signs do we then, recognize an adjective as such in Modern Eng1ish? In most cases this an be dne n1 b taking into account semantic and snttial phenomena. But in some cases, that is for certain adjectives, derivative suffixes are significant, too. Among these are the suffix - less (as in useless), the suffix - like (as in ghostlike), and a few others. Occasionally, however, though a suffix often appears in adjectives, it cannot be taken as a certain proof of the word being an adjective, because the suffix may also make part of a word belonging to another part of speech. Thus, the suffix - full would seem to be typically adjectival, as is its antonym - less. In fat we find the suffix - full in adjectives often enough, as in beautiful, useful, purposeful, meaningful, etc. But alongside of these we also find spoonful, mouthful, handfu1, etc., which are nouns. [4]

n the whole, the numbe f adjectives which an be recognized, as such by their suffix seems to be insignificant as compared with the mass of English adjectives. B. Ilyish, the Structure of Modern English, p. 58 all the adjectives are traditionally divided into two large subclasses: qualitative and relative.

Relative adjectives express such properties of a substance as are determined by the direct relation of the substance to some other substance.

E.g.: wood - a wooden hut; mathematics - mathematical precision; history - a historical event; table - tabular presentation; colors - colored postcards; surgery - surgical treatment; the Middle Ages - mediaeval rites.

The nature of this relationship in adjectives is best revealed by definitional correlations. Cf.: a wooden hut - a hut made of wood; a historical event - an event referring to a certain period of history; surgical treatment - treatment consisting in the implementation of surgery; etc.

Qualitative adjectives denote various qualities of substances which admit of a quantitative estimation, i.e. of establishing their correlative quantitative measure. The measure of a quality can be estimated as high or low, adequate or inadequate, sufficient or insufficient, optimal or excessive. Cf.: an awkward situation - a very awkward situation; a difficult task - too difficult a task; an enthusiastic reception - rather an enthusiastic reception; a hearty welcome - not a very hearty welcome.

In this connection, the ability of an adjective to form degrees of comparison is usually taken as a formal sign of its qualitative character, in opposition to a relative adjective which is understood as incapable of forming degrees of comparison by definition. Cf.: a pretty girl - a prettier girl; a quick look - a quicker look; a hearty welcome - the heartiest of welcomes.

However, in actual speech the described principle of distinction is not at all strictly observed, which is noted in the very grammar treatises putting it forward. Two typical cases of contradiction should be pointed out here. [12]

In the first place, substances can possess such qualities as are incompatible with the idea of degrees of comparison. Accordingly, adjectives denoting these qualities, while belonging to the qualitative subclass, are in the ordinary use incapable of forming degrees of comparison. Here refer adjectives like extinct, immobile, deaf, final, fixed, etc.

In the second place, many adjectives considered under the heading of relative still can form degrees of comparison, thereby, as it was transforming the denoted relative property of a substance into such as can be graded quantitatively. Cf.: a mediaeval approach-rather a mediaeval approach - a far more mediaeval approach; of a military design - of a less military design - of a more military design; a grammatical topic ~ a purely grammatical topic - the most grammatical of the suggested topics.

2. Comparative constructions

Comparative constructions in English and other languages are well studied in degree semantics. We mostly focus on English but crosslinguistic variation is very interesting in this domain.

There are two main types of comparative sentences in English:


a. Nathan is taller than Daniel. (Phrasal comparative)

b. Nathan is taller than Daniel is. (Clausal comparative)

A phrasal comparative involves a DP (or some other non-clausal material) as the complement of than, while a clausal comparative involves something that looks like a clause. Notice that (1b) has a missing item after is in the than-clause. In this example, this seems to be (almost) obligatory.

(2) Nathan is taller than Daniel is tall. But the following is fine:

(3) This desk is wider than the bed is long. One way to understand (1b) is that it is underlyingly (2) but undergoes obligatory ellipsis of the adjective

According to this analysis, (2) and (3) are structurally isomorphic.

There is a lot of debate in the literature about whether phrasal and clausal comparative are syntactically related. [6]

- Phrasal comparatives are underlyingly clausal but just have more missing parts

- Phrasal comparatives cannot be reduced to phrasal comparatives.

Some arguments for the existence of phrasal comparatives:

- Accusative case:


a. Nathan is taller than her.

b. *Nathan is taller than her is. - Anaphor binding:


a. No one is taller than himself.

b. No one is taller than himself is


a. Who is Nathan taller than t?

b. Who is Nathan taller than t is? - Scopal difference:


a. Nathan is taller than nobody.

b. Nathan is taller than nobody is. (Why (7b) is bad is an interesting question. We'll come back to this next week.)

- There are languages that seem to only have phrasal comparatives. These differences between phrasal and clausal comparatives are unexpected if phrasal comparatives are underlyingly clausal.

Although the debate is not settled completely yet, we'll develop separate analyses for phrasal and clausal comparatives.

Digression: The following type of sentence can be used to talk about comparisons but they need not involve comparative forms of the gradable adjectives (and the comparative version degrades somewhat). [14]


a. Compared to Andrew, Nathan is tall.

b. Compared to Andrew, Nathan is taller. This construction is different from canonical comparatives in that it exhibits vagueness, as illustrated by the following example from Kennedy (2010) cited in Nouwen (2011) (Some facts: the radius of Uranus is 25,362 km, the radius of Venus is 6,052 km, and the radius of Neptune is 24,622 km).


a. Uranus is big, compared to Venus.

b. Uranus is bigger than Venus.


a. Uranus is big, compared to Neptune.

b. Uranus is bigger than Neptune. For the semantics of this construction, see Beck, Oda & Sugisaki (2004), Kennedy (2010) and Fults (2006, 2010).

2.1 The Syntax of Clausal Comparatives

Let us analyse the following simple sentence:

(11) Nathan is taller than Daniel is.

The standard analysis of clausal comparatives postulates two phonologically null items in the than-clause:

- An invisible occurrence of the gradable adjective tall

- An operator-movement. Let's call this operator Op

In the so-called `subcomparative deletion' construction, there is no invisible adjective:

(13) The desk is wider than the bed is long. The standard analysis says (11) and (13) have isomorphic structures, and the semantics works in exactly the same way.

Evidence for the operator movement:

- In some languages you see a wh-phrase:

(14) Ja I lublju Ivana bol'e em [jego ljubit Maa]

I love Ivan more what [him loves Masha]

`I love Ivan more than Masha does.' Russian (Pancheva 2007)

- The operator-movement is island sensitive in the same way as wh-movement and other A-bar movements, although there are some exceptions. As a baseline, (15) shows that both the operator movement and wh-movement are unbounded. [9]


a. Which language does Jamie think that Daniel speaks t?

b. Nathan is taller than Jamie thinks Daniel is t tall. The following show that these movements are sensitive to the same island constraints.

(16) Complex NP Island

a. Which language did Jamie meet [a man who speaks t]?

b. *Nathan is taller than Jamie met [a man who is t tall].

(17) Adjunct Island

a. *Which language will Ad be excited [if someone speaks t]?

b. *Nathan is smarter than Ad will be excited [if someone is t smart].

But there is one crucial difference: The operator movement violates the socalled the Left-Branch Condition.

(18) How is Daniel t tall? See Kennedy & Merchant (2000) for more on this.

The Semantics of Clausal Comparatives

Take a gradable adjective and combine it with more or - er, whichever is appropriate. The resulting comparative adjective is generally not vague, even if the positive form is vague.

(19) a. Nathan is tall.

b. Nathan is taller than Daniel is. NB:

(19b) has an `imprecise' use, perhaps unexpectedly: You might say it's false if Nathan is 182.5 cm tall and Daniel is 182 cm tall. But whenever it is used precisely (which you can force to some extend by using phrases like strictly speaking), (19b) is not vague. * Recall our analysis of (19a):

(20) Nathan is [POS C] tall. (20) is true if the degree to which Nathan is tall is greater than or equal to the standard of tallness with respect to the degree C on the scale of tallness.

* We analyse the truth-conditions of (19b) to be

(21) There is a degree to which Nathan is tall and to which Daniel is not tall. * We will assume the same type-xd, ety semantics for tall. [8]

We analyse (23) to be denoting a function of type xd, ty. Specifically:


0 than Op Daniel tOp tall8a, M = d P Dd.

Daniel is d-tall in M Recall that `Daniel is d-tall in M' means the degree to which Daniel is tall is equal to or exceeds d. So if Daniel is 180 cm tall, it maps any degree on the tallness scale that is equal to or smaller than 180 cm to 1. * How do we derive this compositionally?

2.2 Lexical way of expressing comparative Adjectives and Adverbs

Lexical paradigm of nomination forms the basis for the formation of corporate syntagmatic paradigms of the various parts of speech. On the syntactic level of correlation function in which the degrees of comparison of adjectives or adverbs with other significant parts of speech, such as nouns or verbs. At the same nouns and verbs are involved in syntagmatic correlations degrees of comparison of adjectives and adverbs, although no morphological categories of degrees of comparison. Comparative juxtaposition in which the degrees of comparison of adjectives or adverbs in one dicteme occur with nouns or verbs belong far the periphery of the field. Depending on the context, many nouns and verbs can enter into comparative correlation with other parts of speech, if the act of the evaluation functions.

In addition to the instrumental and genitive comparative value may be expressed form the accusative with the preposition in (bent in an arc, each board). The form of the accusative with the preposition with the name as a means of expression of the comparative values (with nail, a mile Kolomna). Lexica means of expression of the comparative figures are the words of the semantics of comparison, a similar (like) like (similar to), such as recalls, like in compared with, in the form, and others. The lexical component indicates not only the fact of the comparison, but at the same time on the result.

The only pattern of morphological change for adverbs is the same as for adjectives, the degrees of comparison [25, 94]. With regard to the category of the degrees of comparison adverbs (like adjectives) fall into comparables and non-comparables. The number of non-comparables is much greater among adverbs than among adjectives. Only adverbs of manner and certain adverbs of time and place can form degrees of comparison. The three grades are called positive, comparative, and superlative degrees.

Adverbs vary in their structure. In accord with their word-building structure adverbs may be simple, derived, compound and composite [25].

Simple adverbs are rather few, and nearly all of them display functional semantics, mostly of pronominal character: here, there, now, then, so, quite, why, how, where, when.

Practical consciousness, says Nicholas Ryabtsev, uses less precise digital data as, in some way, their estimated counterparts: the number of objectified and not counted, estimated, not measured. As a result of the quantitative parameters being developed through the formation of human attitudes toward them and based on the following procedures:

1) a comparison between subjects and quantitative grading;

2) a comparison with its own dimensions (Wed grass foot bush with my height) and their use in the measurement (elbow, yards, feet, inches);

3) Measurement of available tools (a cup of sugar, a bucket of water);

4) isolating particularly significant points: the rules as many as the minimum and maximum, which are the most emotionally evocative, because they form the limits, and limit the things of the world, especially in terms of space allocated [4, p. 126-127].

The system of categories of Aristotle, there is also the category of attitude, which, according to E. Benveniste, is associated with such a fundamental feature of Greek adjectives as property to form the comparative degree.

A metaphor is described as a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two things that are basically dissimilar. In other words, it describes one thing in terms of another. It is comparative, and thus goes beyond a mere descriptive adjective. A metaphor describes one object as being or having the characteristics of a second object. Unlike a simile, a metaphor does not use connective words such as like, as, or resembles in making the comparison.

Examples of metaphor include life is a dream (describing life in terms of a dream), the foundation of knowledge (knowledge in terms of house construction), and he was scraping the bottom of the barrel (a lack of talent described in terms of a barren fruit container). A metaphor that is extended throughout a poem or story, and may involve further related comparisons, is an extended metaphor. If we use a metaphor so often that we don't realize it, the phrase may become a dead metaphor (e.g. foot of the hill, leg of the chair).

Sometimes metaphor is defined in very broad terms, and is used as another term for figurative language or figure of speech. In this sense, metaphorical language incorporates all comparative language, including similes and symbols. For your English exams, however, it is safer to use the more formal phrase figurative language.

It can be argued that human communication is intrinsically metaphorical, and that human communication as we know it couldn't exist without metaphor. Some have argued that our most essential mental concepts (e.g. time and space) are inherently suffused with metaphorical descriptions, so that the way we think, what we experience and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor.

Metonymy and synecdoche are particular forms of metaphor. As with all metaphorical language, they describe something in terms of something else; they are comparative.

Metonymy is a metaphor where something close to the thing described ends up standing for the thing described. Thus, instead of saying the Canadian government, the media often uses the metonymic term Ottawa. The city of Ottawa, where the federal government resides, is closely related to the government, and its use as a substitute makes it an example of metonymy.

A synecdoche (sin-eck-du-kee) is a close sibling of metonymy. A synecdoche is a metaphor where something that's part of the thing described (as in, fundamentally attached) ends up standing for the thing described. When a captain yells, All hands on deck!, he is referring to his sailors; an attached part (the hand) signifies the whole.

The crown, which stands for government is closely related but not fundamentally attached to the thing being described, so it's an example of metonymy, not synecdoche.

A metaphor, properly speaking, compares two totally unrelated items, and is not spatially linked to its partner like metonymy and synecdoche.

Morphological way of expressing comparative Adjectives and Adverbs

Morphological way of expressing comparative values presented in the language of the degrees of comparison of adjectives and adverbs, as well as ablative comparisons and some other of case and prepositional-case forms of nouns. Like adjectives, adverbs category of degrees of comparison is formed opposition of three forms: positive, comparative and superlative. Positive degree itself does not express a comparison, but only when compared to a positive degree of grammatical meaning is realized in comparative and superlative degrees. The grammatical properties of the degrees of comparison laid rich semantic possibility of a graded expression of the trait. Forms of comparative and superlative can be both synthetic and analytical.

Synthetic (simple) form of the comparative degree is formed by adding to an adjective or adverb through formative suffixes

This second meaning of comparable is mainly restricted to predicative examples in the data. In the attribute examples, it is less frequent than that of likeness, even though it has to be noted that it is sometimes to tell the two apart. At odds with these observations, it should be noted that it is the only meaning of comparable pointed out by the OED, which suggests that the likeness meaning is a relatively recent meaning of comparable. This seems to fit in with the etymological history of the adjective, in which the `capable/worthy of comparison' - meaning is directly related to the morphological derivation of the adjective itself. The form comparable is a combination of the verb stem compar - of the Latin verb comparare, `to compare', and the adjectival, which means `possible'. The meaning of the newly composed adjective comparable is thus `that can be compared'. So, from a diachronic point of view, `capable/worthy of comparison' appears to be the original meaning of comparable from which the now more frequent `likeness' meaning developed

In contrast with the likeness meaning of comparable, this second attribute meaning also occurs in a few examples that contain NPs with definite identification, e.g. (8.16)

English has two parallel systems of comparison, a morphological one formed using the suffixes - er (the comparative) and - est (the superlative), with some irregular forms; and a syntactic one, formed with the adverbs more and most.

As a general rule, words with one syllable require the suffix, words with three or more syllables require more or most, and words with two syllables may use one system or the other; which words use which system is a matter of idiom. Some adjectives, e.g. 'polite', can use either form, with different frequencies according to context. [4]

Morphological comparison uses the suffixes - er (the comparative) and - est (the superlative). These inflections are of Germanic origin and are cognate with the Latin suffixes - ior and - issimus and Ancient Greek - n and - istos. They are typically added to shorter words, words of Anglo-Saxon origin, and borrowed words which have been fully assimilated into the English vocabulary. Usually the words which take these inflections have fewer than three syllables.

This system also contains a number of irregular forms, some of which, like good, better, and best, contain suppletive forms. These irregular forms include:




good, well



bad, ill





farthest /furthest




many, much



Adverbs that are identical in form with adjectives take inflections following the same spelling and phonetic rules as for adjectives:

soon - sooner - soonest

early - earlier - earliest

Several adverbs ending in - ly (quickly, loudly) form comparatives according to the same pattern, dropping their adverb-forming suffix. These adverbs acquired the form in - ly only recently and retained the older forms of the comparative and superlative:

quickly - quicker - quickest

loudly - louder - loudest

However most disyllabic adverbs in - ly and all polysyllabic ones form the comparative and superlative analytically, by means of more and most:

beautifully - more beautifully - most beautifully

cleverly - more cleverly - most cleverly

As with adjectives, there is a small group of adverbs with comparatives and superlatives formed from different stems (suppletive forms). These comparatives and superlatives are identical with those for the corresponding adjectives and can be differentiated from the latter only syntactically.

All the problems connected with the adjectival degrees of comparison retain their force for the adverbial degrees of comparison. Some grammarians do not admit forms like more quickly, most quickly to be analytical degrees of comparison [9]. They distinguish only two types of degrees of comparison in adverbs:

the suffix type (quickly - quicker - quickest)

the suppletive type (well - better - best)

Terms of the formal criterion the adverb is characterized by the following features [13, 39]:

1) the forms of the degrees of comparison for qualitative adverbs;

2) the specific suffixal forms of derivation.

Derived adverbs may be classified in several groups [30, 164]. The two largest groups are those formed from adjectives and participles by adding the suffix - ly, e. g.: hopefully, physically, strangely, falsely, occasionally, lately, immediately, constantly, purely, slowly, charmingly, etc //

Comparatives with Multiple Adjectives

Comparative sentences involving two gradable adjectives like (41) are called subcomparatives.

(41) The desk is wider than the bed is long. Our analysis of clausal comparatives naturally extends to

(42) There is a degree d such that the desk is d-wide and the bed is not d-long. * Subcomparatives are only felicitous with `commensurable scales':

(43) Nathan is smarter than the desk is wide. As is intuitively the case, the scale of smartness and the scale of width cannot be directly compared (but see below for metalinguistic comparatives). This restriction, however, is not directly predicted by our analysis. Assuming that degrees of smartness and degrees of width are not on the same scale,

(43) will be trivially true: (44) There is a degree d such that Nathan is d-smart and the desk is not dwide. We can think of the restriction as a `presupposition' that degrees d existentially quantified by the comparative morpheme needs to be on both of the scales. These rules out trivial cases like (43).

* Furthermore, subcomparatives are infelicitous with certain antonyms, a phenomenon Kennedy dubbed cross-polar anomaly.

(45) a. Daniel is shorter than Nathan is tall.

b. Nathan is taller than Daniel is short. The unacceptability of these sentences is not predicted by our analysis. See Kennedy and Bring for analyses.

Comparatives of deviation compare deviations from the standards. It is a feature of this construction that only analytic comparatives (more + adjective) give rise to this reading.


a. San Francisco Bay is more shallow than Monterey Bay is deep.

b. San Francisco Bay is shallower than Monterey Bay is deep.

* Metalinguistic comparatives compare the `appropriateness' of the words.

(47) a. It's more chilly than cold. b. Nathan is more a semanticist than a philosopher. Metalinguistic comparatives are never possible with analytic comparatives.

(48) a. George is more dumb than crazy.

b. *George is dumber than crazy. (Morzycki 2014:172) See Morzycki (2011) for an analysis.

* Another type of inter-adjective comparison is indirect comparison (which Luke asked about in class). The following are examples due to Bale (2006) cited by Morzycki. [7]

(Esme and Seymour are Alan Bale's children). (49) a. Let me tell you how pretty Esme is. She's prettier than Einstein was clever. b. Although Seymour was both happy and angry, he was still happier than he was angry. c. Seymour is taller for a man than he is wide for a man. Unlike comparison of deviation and metalingusitic comparatives, indirect comparisons are possible with synthetic comparatives (Adj+-er). See Bale (2008) and other works cited in Morzycki.

In any human language, there are various means of expressing comparison between entities (or properties), and structures traditionally referred to as comparatives constitute only a subset of these possibilities. Consider the following examples: (1) a. Mary was indeed furious when she saw that you had broken her vase. But you should have seen her mother! b. Mary is tall but Susan is very tall. c. Mary is faster than Susan. In (1a), comparison is only implied: the first sentence makes it explicit that Mary was furious to a certain degree but the second sentence contains no explicit reference to such a degree, yet it implies that the degree to which Mary's mother was furious exceeds the degree to which Mary was furious. In (1b), both the degree to which Mary is tall and the degree to which Susan is tall are explicitly referred to: without any further specification, it is understood that on a scale of height, the degree to which Mary is tall is greater than what is contextually taken to be average and that the degree to which Susan is tall is considerably greater than the average. Hence the degrees of tallness are explicitly referred to, even if they remain vague; however, the comparison between the two degrees is not made explicit, but the relation of the two degrees can be inferred. Finally, (1c) exhibits a true comparative structure, which expresses that the degree to which Mary is fast exceeds the degree to which Susan is fast. [5]

The sentence in (1c) shows the most important elements of comparative constructions: in this case, the degrees of speed of two entities are compared. The reference value of comparison is expressed by faster in the matrix clause (Mary is faster) and it consists of a gradable predicate (fast) and a comparative degree marker (-er). The standard value of comparison (that is, to which something else is compared) is expressed by the subordinate clause (than Susan) and is introduced by the complementiser than, which also serves as the standard marker. There are some important remarks to be made here. In (1c), the comparative degree marker is a bound morpheme that is attached to the gradable predicate; however, this is not an available option for all adjectives in English and very often the periphrastic structure is used, when the - er is present in the form of more: (2) Mary is more pretentious than Susan. Languages differ in terms of whether they allow both kinds of comparative degree marking and some languages (such as German) allow only the morphological way of comparative adjective formation, while others (such as Italian) have the periphrastic way by default. Second, in (1c) the standard value of comparison is introduced by the complementiser than and the string than Susan is a clause. This is explicitly shown by examples that contain a finite verb as well: (3) Mary is faster than Susan is


The information in this project is intended as a summary the degree comparatives, equatives, and the corresponding structures. However, many issues, especially pertaining to use and meaning, suggest that the grammatical category of comparison is far more complex than the systematic descriptions. In order to teach this content, we should be exposed to the rules and tendencies of comparative forms, their functions, their meanings, and the corresponding types and constructions of clauses and phrases where comparison occurs. One implication for teaching comparison is that attention should be given to all of the above and also to the use tendencies exhibited in everyday language.

As just mentioned, at morphological monosyllabic adjectives generally form their comparative form with - er in English, whereas polysyllabic adjectives prefer to use more. There are various idiosyncratic aspects of this guideline, however, especially when adverbs are involved. Most adverbs are formed in English by adding - ly to the end of an adjective, which makes them polysyllabic; they therefore form the comparative via more, as in This sofa seats three people more comfortably than the other one. Some irregular adverbs such as fast or hard do not use more, though, but rather they take the - er suffix, as the adjectives do, e.g., My new car starts faster than the old one or She studies harder than her sister does.

For some monosyllabic adjectives, the comparative of adjectives may be used interchangeably in spoken English with the comparative of adverbs, with no change in meaning: My new car starts more quickly than the old one vs. My new car starts quicker than the old one, although the latter would be generally considered grammatically incorrect. However, if the adjective has an irregular comparative, then the adverb must use it: She writes better than I do or He threw the ball farther than his brother did. Note further that comparison normally implies that the adjective or adverb is gradable.

Language source list

1. References Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., & Finegan, E. (1999).

2. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. Harlow, England: Longman. Celce-Murcia, M. & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1999).

3. The grammar book: An ESL/EFL teacher's course. 2nd ed. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. Halliday, M.A.K. & Hasan, R. (1976).

4. Cohesion in English. London: Longman. Huddleston, R.D. (1988).

5. English grammar: An outline. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Huddleston, R.D. & Pullum, G.K. (2002).

6. The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. Jovanovi, V. . (2009).

7. Certain morpho-semantic implications with the grammatical category of comparison in English. FACTA UNIVERSITATIS-Linguistics and Literature, (VII-01), 19-28. McNally, L. & Kennedy, C. (2008).

8. Adjectives and adverbs: Syntax, semantics, and discourse. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schwarzchild, R., & Wilkinson, K. (2002).

9. Quantifiers in comparatives: semantics of degree based on intervals. Natural language semantics, 10 (1), 1-41.

10. Shimoyama, Junko. 2012. Reassessing crosslinguistic variation in clausal comparatives. Natural Language Semantics 20 (1). 83-113. doi:10.1007/s11050-011-9076-8. Stassen, Leon. 1984.

11. The comparative compared. Journal of Semantics 3 (1-2). 143 - 182. doi:10.1093/jos/3.1-2.143. Stassen, Leon. 1985.

12. Comparison and Universal Grammar. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Stassen, Leon. 2006. Comparative constructions. In Keith Brown (ed.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 686-690. Amsterdam: Elsevier. von Stechow, Arnim. 1984.

13. Comparing semantic theories of comparison. Journal of Semantics 3 (1-2). 1-77. doi:10.1093/jos/3.1-2.1. Sudo, Yasutada. 2014.

14. Hidden nominal structures in Japanese clausal comparatives. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 24 (1). 1-51. doi:10.1007/s10831-014-9125-7. Wunderlich, Dieter. 2001.

15. Two comparatives. In Istvn Kenesei & Robert M. Harnish (eds.), Perspectives on Semantics, Pragmatics, and Discourse: A Festschrift for Ferenc Kiefer, 75-91. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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