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Periphrastic comparison, its form and syntactic appearance

The periphrastic comparative is formed with the aid of a word, such as meer more, followed by the adjective, for majorative comparison, and minder less for minorative comparison, instead of being formed with the aid of an affix such as -er. Examples of both types of periphrastic comparison follow:

Example 1

Sy skoene was meer verslete as hare.
her shoes be.PRT more worn.out PTCL.SIMT hers
His shoes were more worn-out than hers.
Example 2

Die voorwerpkategorie word in Fins minder duidelik uitgedruk as in Afrikaans.
the object category be.AUX.PASS.PRS in Finnish less clearly expressed PTCL.SIMT in Afrikaans
The object category is expressed less clearly in Finnish than in Afrikaans.

The periphrastic comparative is compulsory with pseudo-participles. In the following example, the majorative comparative of the pseudo-participle geslepe cunning is formed by preposing meer more, as explained in the first remark above, while the scalar adjective slim clever, in contrast, forms the comparative by means of the suffix -er.

Example 3

Hy is baie meer geslepe en polities slimm·er.
he be.PRS much more cunning and politically clever·CMPR
He is much more cunning and politically cleverer.

Although isolated cases of the morphological comparative of pseudo-participles are to be found in usage, such as ?verliefd·er in.love·CMPR more in love, the periphrastic comparative is used as default with pseudo-participles, as in:

Example 4

Hy lyk meer ingenome as so pas.
He looks more delighted PTCL.SIMT so recently
He is looking more delighted than just now.

In actual practice, there seem to be some factors favouring either the morphological or the periphrastic comparative. Roughly speaking, the periphrastic comparative seems to occur more easily with words containing multiple syllables, even though the adjective is not a pseudo-participle, as in meer onverstaanbaar more incomprehensible; However, there is an increasing tendency to use the comparative morpheme -(d)er with multisyllabic adjectives, as in this example:

Example 5

Hul taal is onverstaanbaar·der en domm·er.
their language be.PRS incomprehensible·CMPR and dumb·CMPR
Their language is more incomprehensible, and dumber.

The periphrastic comparative can be used with any adjective when a majorative is coordinated with a minorative. When these two forms are coordinated, the periphrastic majorative comparative form is commonly used, even though the morphological form would be the default when used alone. Compare the two examples below:

Example 6

wat ook die behandeling moeilik·er kan maak
that.REL also the treatment difficult·CMPR can.AUX.MOD make
which can also make the treatment more difficult
Example 7

faktore wat 'n taak meer of minder moeilik kan maak
factors that.REL a task more or less difficult can.AUX.MOD make
factors which can make a task more, or less, difficult
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