Университет Российской академии образования

по теоретической грамматике
на тему: “Adjective”

                     иностранных языков

Москва, 2001
      The adjective expresses the categorial  semantics  of  property  of  a
substance. It means that  each  adjective  used  in  tile  text  presupposes
relation to some noun the property of whose referent  it  denotes,  such  as
its   material,   colour,   dimensions,   position,   state,    and    other
characteristics both permanent and temporary. It  follows  from  this  that,
unlike nouns, adjectives do not possess a  full  nominative  value.  Indeed,
words like long,  hospitable,  fragrant  cannot  effect  any  self-dependent
nominations;  as  units  of  informative  sequences  they  exist   only   in
collocations showing what is long, who is hospitable, what is fragrant.
      The semantically bound character of the  adjective  is  emphasized  in
English by the use  of  the  prop-substitute  one  in  the  absence  of  the
notional head-noun of the phrase. E.g.:
I don't want a yellow balloon, let me have the  green
one over there.

      On the other hand, if the adjective is placed in a nominatively  self-
dependent position, this leads to its substantivization.  E.g.:  Outside  it
was a beautiful day, and the sun tinged the snow  with  red.  Cf.:  The  sun
tinged the snow with the red colour.
      Adjectives are distinguished by a specific combinability  with  nouns,
which they modify, if not accompanied by adjuncts, usually in  pre-position,
and occasionally in postposition; by a combinability with  link-verbs,  both
functional and notional; by a combinability with modifying adverbs.
      In the sentence the adjective performs the functions of  an  attribute
and a predicative. Of the two, the more specific function of  the  adjective
is that of an  attribute,  since  the  function  of  a  predicative  can  be
performed by the noun as well.  There  is,  though,  a  profound  difference
between the predicative  uses  of  the  adjective  and  the  noun  which  is
determined by their native  categorial  features.  Namely,  the  predicative
adjective expresses some attributive property of its noun-referent,  whereas
the predicative noun expresses various substantival characteristics  of  its
referent, such as its identification or classification of  different  types.
This can be shown on examples analysed by definitional and  transformational
procedures. Cf.:
      You talk to people as if they were a group. —> You talk to  people  as
if they formed a group. Quite obviously, he was a friend. —>  His  behaviour
was like that of a friend.
      Cf., as against the above:

I will be silent as a grave. —> I will be like a silent grave.  Walker  felt
healthy. —> Walker felt a healthy man. It was sensational. —> That fact  was
a sensational fact.

      When  used  as   predicatives   or   post-positional   attributes,   a
considerable number of adjectives, in addition to the general  combinability
characteristics of the whole class, are  distinguished  by  a  complementive
combinability  with  nouns.  The  complement-expansions  of  adjectives  are
effected by means of prepositions. E.g. fond of,  jealous  of,  curious  of,
suspicious of; angry with, sick with, serious about,  certain  about,  happy
about; grateful to, thankful  to, etc.  Many  such  adjectival  collocations
render essentially verbal meanings and some of them have direct or  indirect
parallels among verbs. Cf.: be fond of—love, like; be envious of — envy;  be
angry with — resent; be mad for, about - covet; be thankful to — thank.
      Alongside of other complementive relations expressed with the help  of
prepositions and corresponding to direct and prepositional  object-relations
of verbs, some of these adjectives may render relations of  addressee.  Cf.:
grateful to, indebted to, partial to, useful  for.
      To the derivational features of adjectives belong a number of suffixes
and prefixes of which the most important are:
-ful  (hopeful),  -less  (flawless),-ish  (bluish,   -ous   (famous),   -ive
(decorative), -ic  (basic);  un-  (unprecedented),  in-  (inaccurate),  pre-
Among  the  adjectival  affixes  should  also  be  named  the   prefix   a-,
constitutive for the stative sub-class which is to be discussed below.
      As for the variable (demutative) morphological features,  the  English
adjective, having lost in the course of  the  history  of  English  all  its
forms of grammatical agreement with the noun, is distinguished only  by  the
hybrid category of comparison.

      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; colour — coloured 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;
      Qualitative  adjectives,  as  different  from  relative  ones,  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; etc.
      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; a bombastic speech — the most bombastic speech.
      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.
      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  were,
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.
      In  order  to  overcome  the  demonstrated  lack  of  rigour  in   the
definitions  in  question,  we  may  introduce  an   additional   linguistic
distinction which is more adaptable to the chances of usage.  The  suggested
distinction is based on the evaluative function of adjectives. According  as
they actually give some qualitative evaluation to the substance referent  or
only  point  out  its  corresponding  native  property,  all  the  adjective
functions   may   be   grammatically   divided   into    "evaluative"    and
"specificative". In particular, one and the same adjective, irrespective  of
its being basically (i.e. in the sense of the fundamental semantic  property
of its root constituent) "relative" or "qualitative", can be used either  in
the evaluative function or in the specificative function.
      For instance, the adjective good  is  basically  qualitative.  On  the
other hand, when employed as  a  grading  term  in  teaching,  i.e.  a  term
forming part of the marking scale  together  with  the  grading  terms  bad,
satisfactory, excellent, it acquires the said specificative value; in  other
words,  it  becomes  a  specificative,  not  an  evaluative  unit   in   the
grammatical sense
(though, dialectically, it does signify in this case  a  lexical  evaluation
of the pupil's progress). Conversely,  the  adjective  wooden  is  basically
relative,  but  when  used  in  the  broader  meaning  "expressionless"   or
"awkward" it acquires an evaluative force and, consequently, can  presuppose
a greater or lesser  degree  ("amount")  of  the  denoted  properly  in  the
corresponding referent. E.g.:

Bundle found  herself  looking  into  the  expressionless,  wooden  face  of
Superintendent Battle (A. Christie). The superintendent was  sitting  behind
a table and looking more wooden than ever.

      The  degrees  of  comparison  are  essentially  evaluative   formulas,
therefore any adjective used in a  higher  comparison  degree  (comparative,
superlative) is thereby made into an evaluative adjective, if only  for  the
nonce (see the examples above).
      Thus,  the  introduced  distinction   between   the   evaluative   and
specificative uses of adjectives, in the long run, emphasizes the fact  that
the  morphological  category   of   comparison   (comparison   degrees)   is
potentially  represented  in  the  whole  class   of   adjectives   and   is
constitutive for it.

      Among the words signifying properties of a nounal referent there is  a
lexemic set which claims to be recognized as  a  separate  part  of  speech,
i.e. as a class of words different from the adjectives in its  class-forming
features. These are words built up by the prefix a- and  denoting  different
states, mostly of temporary  duration.  Here  belong  lexemes  like  afraid,
agog, adrift, ablaze. In traditional  grammar  these  words  were  generally
considered under the heading of "predicative adjectives" (some of them  also
under the heading of adverbs), since their  most  typical  position  in  the
sentence is that of a predicative and they are but occasionally used as pre-
positional attributes to nouns.
      Notional words signifying states and specifically used as predicatives
were first identified as a separate part of speech in the  Russian  language
by L. V. Shcherba and V. V. Vinogradov. The two scholars  called  the  newly
identified part of speech the "category  of  state"  (and,  correspondingly,
separate words making up this category, "words of the category  of  state").
Here belong the Russian words mostly ending in -o,  but  also  having  other
suffixes: тепло, зябко, одиноко, радостно, жаль,  лень,  etc.  Traditionally
the Russian words of the category of state were considered  as  constituents
of (he class of adverbs, and they are  still  considered  as  such  by  many
Russian schiolars.
      On the analogy  of  the  Russian  "category  of  state",  the  English
qualifying a-words of the corresponding meanings were subjected to a lexico-
grammatical analysis and  given  the  part-of-speech  heading  "category  of
slate". This analysis  was  first  conducted  by  B.  A.  llyish  and  later
continued by other linguists. The term "words of  the  category  of  state",
being rather cumbersome from the technical point of view, was later  changed
into "stative words", or "statives".
      The part-of-speech interpretation of the statives is not shared by all
linguists working  in  the  domain  of  English,  and  has  found  both  its
proponents and opponents.
Probably the most consistent and explicit exposition of  the  part-of-speech
interpretation of statives has been given by B.  S.  Khaimovich  and  B.  I.
Rogovskaya. Their theses supporting the view in question can  be  summarized
as follows.
      First, the statives, called by the quoted authors "adlinks" (by virtue
of their  connection  with  link-verbs  and  on  the  analogy  of  the  term
"adverbs"), are allegedly opposed to adjectives on a purely semantic  basis,
since adjectives denote "qualities", and statives-adlinks  denote  "states".
Second, as different from adjectives, statives-adlinks are characterized  by
the specific prefix a-. Third, they allegedly do not  possess  the  category
of the degrees of comparison. Fourth, the combinability of  statives-adlinks
is different from that of adjectives in so far as they are not used  in  the
pre-positional attributive function, i.e. are characterized by  the  absence
of the right-hand combinability with nouns.
      The advanced reasons, presupposing many-sided categorial estimation of
statives, are undoubtedly serious  and  worthy  of  note.  Still,  a  closer
consideration of the properties of the analysed lexemic set cannot but  show
that, on the whole, the said reasons are hardly instrumental in proving  the
main idea, i.e. in establishing the English stative as a  separate  part  of
speech. The re-consideration of the stative on the basis of comparison  with
the classical adjective inevitably discloses (lie  fundamental  relationship
between the two, — such relationship as should be interpreted  in  no  other
terms  than  identity  on  the  part-of-speech  level,  though,   naturally,
providing for their distinct differentiation on the subclass level.
      The first scholar who undertook this kind of re-consideration  of  the
lexemic status of English  statives  was  L.  S.  Barkhudarov,  and  in  our
estimation of them we essentially follow his principles, pointing  out  some
additional criteria of argument.
      First, considering the basic meaning  expressed  by  the  stative,  we
formulate it as "stative property", i.e. a kind  of  property  of  a  nounal
referent. As we already  know,  the  adjective  as  a  whole  signifies  not
"quality" in  the  narrow  sense,  but  "property",  which  is  categorially
divided into "substantive quality as such" and  "substantive  relation".  In
this  respect,  statives  do  not  fundamentally   differ   from   classical
adjectives. Moreover, common adjectives and  participles  in  adjective-type
functions can express the same, or,  more  specifically,  typologically  the
same properties (or "qualities" in a broader  sense)  as  are  expressed  by
      Indeed, the main meaning types conveyed by statives are:
the psychic state of a person (afraid, ashamed, aware); the  physical  state
of a person (astir, afoot); the physical state of an object (afire,  ablaze,
aglow); the state of an object in space (askew, awry, aslant).  Meanings  of
the same order are rendered by pre-positional adjectives. Cf.:

the living predecessor — the predecessor alive; eager curiosity —  curiosity
agog; the burning house — the house afire; a floating raft — a raft  afloat;
a half-open door — a door adjar; slanting ropes — ropes aslant;  a  vigilant
man — a man awake;
similar cases — cases alike; an excited crowd  — a crowd astir.

   It goes without saying that many other adjectives and participles  convey
the meanings of various states irrespective of their analogy with  statives.
Cf. such words of the order of psychic state as despondent, curious,  happy,
joyful;  such  words  of  the  order  of  human  physical  state  as  sound,
refreshed, healthy, hungry; such words of the order  of  activity  state  as
busy, functioning, active, employed, etc.
   Second, turning to the combinability characteristics of statives, we  see
that, though differing from those of the  common  adjectives  in  one  point
negatively, they basically coincide with them in  the  other  points.  As  a
matter of fact, statives are not  used  in  attributive  pre-position.  but,
like  adjectives,  they  are  distinguished  by  the  left-hand   categorial
combinability both with nouns and link-verbs. Cf.:
The household was nil  astir.——The  household  was  all  excited  —  It  was
strange to see (the household active at  this  hour  of  the  day.—  It  was
strange to see the household active at this hour of the day.
      Third, analysing the functions of the  stative  corresponding  to  its
combinability patterns, we see that essentially they do not differ from  the
functions of the common adjective. Namely, the two basic  functions  of  the
stative are the predicative and the attribute. The similarity  of  functions
leads to the possibility of the use of a stative and a common  adjective  in
a homogeneous group. E.g.: Launches and  barges  moored  to  the  dock  were
ablaze and loud with wild sound.
      True, the predominant function of the stative, as different  from  the
common adjective, is that  of  the  predicative.  But  then,  the  important
structural and functional  peculiarities  of  statives  uniting  them  in  a
distinctly separate set of lexemes cannot be disputed. What is  disputed  is
the status of this set in relation to the notional parts of speech, not  its
existence or identification as such.
      Fourth, from our point of view, it would not be quite consistent  with
the actual lingual data to place the stative strictly out  of  the  category
of comparison. As we  have  shown  above,  the  category  of  comparison  is
connected with the functional division of  adjectives  into  evaluative  and
specificative,  Like  common  adjectives,  statives  are  subject  to   this
flexible  division,  and  so  in  principle  they  are  included  into   the
expression of the quantitative estimation of  the  corresponding  properties
conveyed by them. True, statives do not take the synthetical  forms  of  the
degrees of  comparison,  but  they  are  capable  of  expressing  comparison
analytically, in cases where it is to be expressed.
Cf.: Of us all, Jack was the one most aware of  the  delicate  situation  in
which we found ourselves. I saw that the  adjusting  lever  stood  far  more
askew than was allowed by the directions.
      Fifth, quantitative considerations, though being a  subsidiary  factor
of reasoning, tend to support the conjoint part-of-speech interpretation  of
statives and common adjectives. Indeed, the total number  of  statives  does
not exceed several dozen (a couple  of  dozen  basic,  "stable"  units  and,
probably, thrice as many "unstable" words of the nature of coinages for  the
nonce). This number is negligible in comparison with the number of words  of
the otherwise identified notional parts of speech,  each  of  them  counting
thousands of units. Why, then, an honour of the part-of-speech status to  be
granted to a small group of words not differing in their fundamental lexico-
grammatical features from one of the established large word-classes?
      As for the  set-forming  prefix  a-,  it  hardly  deserves  a  serious
consideration as a formal basis  of  the  part-of-speech  identification  of
statives simply because formal features cannot be taken  in  isolation  from
functional features. Moreover, as is known, there are words of property  not
distinguished  by  this   prefix,   which   display   essential   functional
characteristics inherent in the stative  set.  In  particular,  here  belong
such adjectives as ill, well, glad, sorry, worth (while), subject (to),  due
(to), underway, and  some  others.  On  the  other  hand,  among  the  basic
statives we find such as can hardly be analysed into a  genuine  combination
of the type "prefix + root",  because  their  morphemic  parts  have  become
fused into one indivisible unit in the  course  of  language  history,  e.g.
aware, afraid, aloof.
      Thus, the undertaken  semantic  and  functional  analysis  shows  that
statives, though forming a  unified  set  of  words,  do  not  constitute  a
separate lexemic class existing in language on exactly the same  footing  as
the noun, the verb, the adjective, the adverb; rather it  should  be  looked
upon  as  a  subclass  within  the  general  class  of  adjectives.  It   is
essentially  an  adjectival  subclass,  because,  due  to   their   peculiar
features, statives are not directly opposed to the notional parts of  speech
taken  together,  but  are  quite  particularly  opposed  to  the  rest   of
adjectives. It means that the general  subcategorization  of  the  class  of
adjectives should be effected on the two levels:  on  the  upper  level  the
class will be divided into the subclass of  stative  adjectives  and  common
adjectives; on the lower level the common adjectives fall  into  qualitative
and relative, which division has been discussed in the foregoing paragraph.
      As we see, our final conclusion about the lexico-grammatical nature of
statives appears to have returned them into  the  lexemic  domain  in  which
they were placed by traditional grammar and from which they  were  alienated
in the course of  subsequent  linguistic  investigations.  A  question  then
arises,  whether  these  investigations,  as   well   as   the   discussions
accompanying them, have served any rational purpose at all.
      The answer to  this  question,  though,  can  only  be  given  in  the
energetic  affirmative.  Indeed,  all  the  detailed  studies  of   statives
undertaken by quite a few scholars, all  the  discussions  concerning  their
systemic location and  other  related  matters  have  produced  very  useful
results, both theoretical and practical.
The traditional view of  the  stative  was  not  supported  by  any  special
analysis, it was formed on the grounds of mere surface analogies  and  outer
correlations. The later study of statives  resulted  in  the  exposition  of
their inner properties, in the discovery of  their  historical  productivity
as a subclass, in their systemic  description  on  the  lines  of  competent
inter-class and inter-level comparisons. And it is  due  to  the  undertaken
investigations (which certainly will be continued) that  we  are  now  in  a
position, though having rejected the fundamental separation of  the  stative
from the adjective,  to  name  the  subclass  of  statives  as  one  of  the
peculiar, idiomatic lexemic features of Modern English.

      As is widely known,  adjectives  display  the  ability  to  be  easily
substantivized by conversion,  i.e.  by  zero-derivation.  Among  the  noun-
converted adjectives we find both old units, well-established in the  system
of lexicon, and also new ones, whose adjectival  etymology  conveys  to  the
lexeme the vivid colouring of a new coinage.
      For instance, the words a relative or  a  white  or  a  dear  bear  an
unquestionable mark of  established  tradition,  while  such  a  noun  as  a
sensitive used in the following sentence  features  a  distinct  flavour  of
purposeful conversion: He  was  a  regional  man,  a  man  who  wrote  about
sensitives who live away from the places where things happen.
      Compare this with the noun  a  high  in  the  following  example:  The
weather report promises a new high in heat and humidity.
      From the purely  categorial  point  of  view,  however,  there  is  no
difference between the adjectives cited in the examples and the  ones  given
in  the  foregoing  enumeration,   since   both   groups   equally   express
constitutive categories of the noun, i.e. the number, the case, the  gender,
the article determination, and they likewise equally perform  normal  nounal
      On the other hand, among the substantivized adjectives there is a  set
characterized by hybrid lexico-grammatical features,  as  in  the  following

The new bill concerning the wage-freeze introduced by the Labour  Government
cannot satisfy either the poor, or the rich (Radio  Broadcast).  A  monster.
The word conveyed the ultimate in infamy  and  debasement  inconceivable  to
one not native to the  times  (J.  Vance).  The  train,  indulging  all  his
English nostalgia for the plushy and the genteel, seemed  to  him  a  deceit
(M. Bradbury).

      The mixed categorial nature of the exemplified words is  evident  from
their incomplete presentation  of  the  part-of  speech  characteristics  of
either nouns or adjectives. Like nouns, the words are used  in  the  article
form; like nouns, they express the  category  of  number  (in  a  relational
way); but their article and number forms are rigid, being no subject to  the
regular structural  change  inherent  in  the  normal  expression  of  these
categories. Moreover, being categorially unchangeable, the words convey  the
mixed adjectival-nounal semantics of property.
      The adjectival-nounal words in question are very  specific.  They  are
distinguished by a high productivity and, like statives,  are  idiomatically
characteristic of Modern English.
      On the analogy of verbids these words might be  called  "adjectivids",
since they are rather nounal forms of adjectives than nouns as such.
      The adjectivids fall into two main grammatical subgroups, namely,  the
subgroup pluralia  tantum  {the  English,  the  rich,  the  unemployed,  the
uninitiated, etc.), and the subgroup singularia tantum (the  invisible,  the
abstract,  the  tangible,  etc.).  Semantically,  the  words  of  the  first
subgroup express sets of people (personal multitudes), while  the  words  of
the second group express abstract ideas of various types and connotations.

      The category  of  adjectival  comparison  expresses  the  quantitative
characteristic of the  quality  of  a  nounal  referent,  i.e.  it  gives  a
relative evaluation of the  quantity  of  a  quality.  The  purely  relative
nature of the categorial semantics of comparison is reflected in its name.
      The category is constituted by the opposition of the three forms known
under the heading  of  degrees  of  comparison:  the  basic  form  (positive
degree), having no features of corn" parison; the comparative  degree  form,
having the feature of restricted .superiority (which limits  the  comparison
to two elements only); the superlative degree form, having  the  feature  of
unrestricted superiority.
      It should be noted that the meaning of unrestricted superiority is in-
built in the superlative degree as such, though in  practice  this  form  is
used  in  collocations  imposing  certain  restrictions  on   the   effected
comparison; thus, the form in question may be  used  to  signify  restricted
superiority, namely, in cases  where  a  limited  number  of  referents  are
compared. Cf.: Johnny was the strongest boy in the company.
      As is evident from the example, superiority restriction is shown  here
not by the  native  meaning  of  the  superlative,  but  by  the  particular
contextual construction of comparison where the  physical  strength  of  one
boy is estimated in relation to that of his companions.
      Some linguists approach the number of the  degrees  of  comparison  as
problematic on the grounds that the basic form of  the  adjective  does  not
express any comparison by itself and therefore should be excluded  from  the
category. This exclusion would reduce the  category  to  two  members  only,
i.e. the comparative and superlative degrees.
      However, the oppositional  interpretation  of  grammatical  categories
underlying our considerations does not admit of such an  exclusion;  on  the
contrary, the non-expression of superiority by the basic form is  understood
in the oppositional presentation of comparison as a  pre-requisite  for  the
expression of the category as such. In this expression of the  category  the
basic form is the unmarked  member,  not  distinguished  by  any  comparison
suffix or comparison  auxiliary,  while  the  superiority  forms  (i.e.  the
comparative and superlative) are the marked members,  distinguished  by  the
comparison suffixes or comparison auxiliaries.
      That the basic form as the positive degree of comparison does  express
this categorial idea, being included in one and the same  calegorial  series
with the superiority degrees,  is  clearly  shown  by  its  actual  uses  in
comparative syntactic constructions of  equality,  as  well  as  comparative
syntactic constructions of negated equality. Cf.: The remark was  as  bitter
as could be. The Rockies are not so high as the Caucasus.
      These  constructions  are  directly   correlative   with   comparative
constructions of inequality built around  the  comparative  and  superlative
degree forms. Cf.: That was the bitterest remark I have ever heard from  the
man. The Caucasus is higher than the Rockies.
      Thus, both formally and semantically, the oppositional  basis  of  the
category of comparison displays a binary  nature.  In  terms  of  the  three
degrees of comparison, on the upper level of  presentation  the  superiority
degrees as the marked member of the opposition are  contrasted  against  the
positive degree as its unmarked member. The superiority  degrees,  in  their
turn, form the opposition of the lower  level  of  presentation,  where  the
comparative  degree  features  the  functionally  weak   member,   and   the
superlative degree, respectively,  the  strong  member.  The  whole  of  the
double oppositional unity, considered from the semantic  angle,  constitutes
a gradual ternary opposition.

      The synthetical forms of comparison in -er and -(e)st coexist with the
analytical forms of comparison effected by the auxiliaries  more  and  most.
The analytical forms of comparison perform a double  function.  On  the  one
hand, they are used with  the  evaluative  adjectives  that,  due  to  their
phonemic  structure  (two-syllable  words  with  the  stress  on  the  first
syllable ending in other grapho-phonemic complexes than -er,  -y,  -le,  -ow
or words of more than two-syllable composition)  cannot  normally  take  the
synthetical forms of comparison. In this respect, the analytical  comparison
forms are in categorial  complementary  distribution  with  the  synthetical
comparison forms. On the other hand, the analytical forms of comparison,  as
different from the synthetical forms, are used  to  express  emphasis,  thus
complementing  the  synthetical  forms  in  the  sphere  of  this  important
stylistic connotation. Cf.: The audience became more  and  more  noisy,  and
soon the speaker's words were drowned in the general hum of voices.
      The structure of the analytical degrees of comparison is  meaningfully
overt; these forms are  devoid  of  the  feature  of  "semantic  idiomatism"
characteristic of some other  categorial  analytical  forms,  such  as,  for
instance, the forms of the verbal perfect. For this  reason  the  analytical
degrees of comparison invite some linguists to call in question their  claim
to a categorial status in English grammar.
      In particular, scholars point out the following two factors in support
of the view that the combinations of more/most with the basic  form  of  the
adjective are not the analytical expressions of the  morphological  category
of comparison, but  free  syntactic  constructions:  first,  the  more/most-
combinations are semantically analogous to combinations of  less/least  with
the adjective which, in the general opinion, are syntactic  combinations  of
notional  words;  second,  the  most-combination,   unlike   the   synthetic
superlative,  can  take  the  indefinite   article,   expressing   not   the
superlative, but the elative meaning (i.e. a high, not  the  highest  degree
of the respective quality).
      The reasons advanced, though claiming to be based on  an  analysis  of
actual lingual data, can  hardly  be  called  convincing  as  regards  their
immediate negative purpose.
      Let us first consider  the  use  of  the  most-combillation  with  the
indefinite article.
      This combination is a common means of expressing  elative  evaluations
of substance properties. The function of the  elative  most-construction  in
distinction to the function of the superlative  most-'construction  will  be
seen from the following examples:

The speaker launched  a  most  significant  personal  attack  on  the  Prime
Minister. The most  significant  of  the  arguments  in  a  dispute  is  not
necessarily the most spectacular one.

      While the phrase "a most significant (personal) attack" in  the  first
of the two examples gives the idea of rather a high degree  of  the  quality
expressed irrespective of any  directly  introduced  or  implied  comparison
with other attacks on the Prime Minister, the phrase "the  most  significant
of the arguments" expresses exactly the superlative degree  of  the  quality
in relation to the immediately introduced comparison with all  the  rest  of
the arguments in a dispute; the same holds true  of  the  phrase  "the  most
spectacular  one".  It  is  this  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.
      The definite  article  with  the  elative  most-construction  is  also
possible, if leaving the elative function less distinctly  recognizable  (in
oral speech the elative most is commonly left  unstressed,  the  absence  of
stress serving as a negative mark of the elative). Cf.: I  found  myself  in
the most awkward situation, for I couldn't give  a  satisfactory  answer  to
any question asked by the visitors.
      Now, the synthetical superlative degree, as is known, can be  used  in
the elative function as well,  the  distinguishing  feature  of  the  latter
being its exclusion from a comparison.
Unfortunately, our cooperation with Danny proved the  worst  experience  for
both of us. No doubt Mr. Snider will show you  his  collection  of  minerals
with the greatest pleasure.

      And this fact gives us a clue for understanding the expressive  nature
of the elative superlative as such — the nature  that  provides  it  with  a
permanent  grammatico-stylistic  status  in  the   language.   Indeed,   the
expressive peculiarity  of  the  form  consists  exactly  in  the  immediate
combination of the two features which outwardly contradict each other:
the categorial form of the superlative on the one hand, and the  absence  of
a comparison on the other.
      That the categorial form of the superlative (i.e. the superlative with
its general functional specification) is essential also for  the  expression
of the elative semantics can, however paradoxical it might appear,  be  very
well illustrated by the elative use of the comparative degree.  Indeed,  the
comparative  combination  featuring  the  dative   comparative   degree   is
constructed in such a way as to place  it  in  the  functional  position  of
unrestricted superiority, i.e. in the position  specifically  characteristic
of the superlative. E.g.:
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to greet you as our guest of  honour.
There is nothing more refreshing than a good swim.

      The parallelism of functions between the two forms of comparison  (the
comparative degree and the superlative degree) in such and like examples  is
      As we see, the elative superlative,  though  it  is  not  the  regular
superlative in the grammatical  sense,  is  still  a  kind  of  a  specific,
grammatically  featured   construction.   This   grammatical   specification
distinguishes it from common elative constructions which  may  be  generally
defined as syntactic combinations of an intensely high estimation. E.g.:
an extremely important amendment; a matter of exceeding  urgency;  quite  an
unparalleled beauty; etc.
      Thus, from a grammatical  point  of  view,  the  elative  superlative,
though semantically it  is  "elevated",  is  nothing  else  but  a  degraded
superlative,  and  its  distinct  featuring   mark   with   the   analytical
superlative  degree  is  the  indefinite  article:  the  two  forms  of  the
superlative of different  functional  purposes  receive  the  two  different
marks (if not quite rigorously separated in  actual  uses)  by  the  article
determination treatment.
      It follows from the above that the possibility of the most-combination
to be used with the indefinite article cannot in any  way  be  demonstrative
of  its  non-grammatical  character,  since  the  functions   of   the   two
superlative combinations  in  question,  the  elative  superlative  and  the
genuine superlative, are different.
      Moreover, the use of  the  indefinite  article  with  the  synthetical
superlative in the degraded, dative function is not  altogether  impossible,
though somehow such a possibility is bluntly denied by  certain  grammatical
manuals. Cf.: He made a last lame effort to delay the experiment; but  Basil
was impervious to suggestion.
      But there is one more possibility to formally differentiate the direct
and dative functions of the synthetical superlative, namely,  by  using  the
zero article with the superlative. This latter possibility is noted in  some
grammar books (Ganshina, Vasilevskaya, 85). Cf.: Suddenly I was seized  with
a sensation of deepest regret.
      However, the general tendency of  expressing  the  superlative  dative
meaning is by using  the  analytical  form.  Incidentally,  in  the  Russian
language the tendency of usage is reverse: it is  the  synthetical  form  of
the Russian superlative that is preferred in rendering the dative  function.
Cf.: слушали с живейшим интересом; повторялась скучнейшая история;  попал  в
глупейшее положение и т.д.

      Let us examine now the combinations of less/least with the basic  form
of the adjective.
      As is well known, the general view of  these  combinations  definitely
excludes  them  from  any  connection  with  categorial  analytical   forms.
Strangely enough,  this  rejectionist  view  of  the  "negative  degrees  of
comparison" is even taken  to  support,  not  to  reject  the  morphological
interpretation of the more/most-combinations.
      The   corresponding   argument   in   favour   of   the   rejectionist
interpretation consists in pointing out the functional parallelism  existing
between  the  synthetical  degrees  of   comparison   and   the   more/most-
combinations  accompanied  by  their  complementary  distribution,  if   not
rigorously pronounced (the  different  choice  of  the  forms  by  different
syllabo-phonetical  forms  of  adjectives).   The   less/least-combinations,
according to this view, are absolutely  incompatible  with  the  synthetical
degrees of comparison, since they express not only different,  but  opposite
      Now, it does not require a profound analysis to  see  that,  from  the
grammatical point  of  view,  the  formula  "opposite  meaning"  amounts  to
ascertaining the categorial equality of the forms compared. Indeed,  if  two
forms express the opposite meanings, then they can only belong to  units  of
the same general order. And we cannot but agree with B. A.  Ilyish's  thesis
that "there seems to be no sufficient reason for treating the  two  sets  of
phrases in different ways, saying that 'more  difficult'  is  an  analytical
form, while 'less difficult' is not" [Ilyish, 60]. True,  the  cited  author
takes this fact rather as demonstration that  both  types  of  constructions
should equally be excluded from the domain  of  analytical  forms,  but  the
problem of the categorial status  of  the  more/most-combinations  has  been
analysed above.
      Thus,  the  less/least-combinations,   similar   to   the   more/most-
combinations, constitute specific forms of comparison, which may  be  called
forms  of  "reverse  comparison".  The  two  types  of   forms   cannot   be
syntagmatically combined in one and the same form of the word,  which  shows
the unity of the category of comparison. The  whole  category  includes  not
three, but five different forms, making up the two  series  —  respectively,
direct and reverse. Of these, the reverse series of comparison (the  reverse
superiority degrees) is of far lesser importance than the direct one,  which
evidently can be explained by semantic reasons. As a matter of fact,  it  is
more natural  to  follow  the  direct  model  of  comparison  based  on  the
principle of addition of qualitative quantities than on  the  reverse  model
of  comparison  based  on  the  principle  of  subtraction  of   qualitative
quantities, since subtraction in general is a far more abstract  process  of
mental activity than addition. And, probably, exactly for  the  same  reason
the reverse comparatives and superlatives are  rivalled  in  speech  by  the
corresponding negative syntactic constructions.

      Having considered the characteristics of the category  of  comparison,
we can see more clearly the relation to this category of some  usually  non-
comparable evaluative adjectives.
      Outside the immediate comparative grammatical change of the  adjective
stand such evaluative adjectives  as  contain  certain  comparative  sememic
elements in their semantic structures. In particular, as we  have  mentioned
above,  here  belong  adjectives  that  are  themselves  grading  marks   of
evaluation.  Another  group  of  evaluative  non-comparables  is  formed  by
adjectives of indefinitely moderated quality, or,  tentatively,  "moderating
qualifiers", such as whitish, tepid, half-ironical, semi-detached, etc.  But
the most peculiar lexemic group of non-comparables is made up by  adjectives
expressing the highest degree of  a  respective  quality,  which  words  can
tentatively  be  called  "adjectives  of  extreme  quality",   or   "extreme
qualifiers", or simply "extremals".
      The inherent superlative semantics of extremals is emphasized  by  the
definite article normally introducing  their  nounal  combinations,  exactly
similar to the definite  article  used  with  regular  collocations  of  the
superlative degree. Cf.: The ultimate outcome of the talks was  encouraging.
The final decision has not yet been made public.
      On the other hand,  due  to  the  tendency  of  colloquial  speech  to
contrastive variation, such extreme qualifiers can sometimes be modified  by
intensifying elements. Thus, "the final  decision"  becomes  "a  very  final
decision";  "the  ultimate  rejection"  turns  into  "rather   an   ultimate
rejection"; "the crucial role" is made into "quite a crucial role", etc.
      As a result of this kind of modification, the highest grade evaluative
force of these words is not strengthened, but, on  the  contrary,  weakened;
the outwardly extreme qualifiers become degraded  extreme  qualifiers,  even
in this status similar to the regular categorial  superlatives  degraded  in
their  elative use.


Ilyish B. “The structure of modern English”, M, 1971
Bloch M. “The course in the English grammar”, M, 1983


Преимущества заказа у - это прямой контакт с авторм без диспетчеров и курьеров обеспечит наивысшее качество за приемлемую цену....

Примерные цены работ на заказ