• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all

This chapter discusses the degrees of comparison. Section 4.1 starts with a discussion of equative, comparative and superlative forms like those given in (1). We will see that comparative and superlative forms are generally derived by morphological means, although we will also encounter certain cases in which a periphrastic comparative/superlative may or must appear. Section 4.1 also includes a discussion of the als/dan/van-phrases of comparison.

a. Equative form: even mooi als ... 'as pretty as ...'
b. Comparative form: mooier dan/als ... 'prettier than ...'
c. Superlative form: het mooiste van ... 'the prettiest of ...'

Section 4.2 discusses the syntactic distribution of the equative, comparative and superlative forms, that is, more specifically, the syntactic functions that they may perform. Section 4.3 will show that the forms in (1) exhibit various properties that can also be found with adjectives that are modified by a complex intensifying phrase. This is fairly obvious for equative phrases like (1a), given that Section 3.1.3, sub I, has shown that the equative construction even A als ...'as A as ...' is virtually synonymous with the construction net zo A als ...'just as A as ...', which involves a complex intensifying phrase headed by zo. For the comparative and superlative forms, on the other hand, this is perhaps less obvious, given that these normally do not involve modification but word formation, but we will nevertheless argue that there are reasons to treat modification and comparative/superlative formation on a par, at least as far as syntax is concerned.
      Before we do all this, we want to point out that comparison is only possible with set-denoting adjectives; the examples in (2) show that relational adjectives like houten'wooden', evaluative adjectives like drommels'devilish', and, e.g., modal adjectives like vermeend'alleged' are not eligible for it, and they will therefore not be discussed in this chapter.

a. een houten trein
* een even houten trein als ...
* een houten-ere trein dan ...
* de houten-ste trein van ...
a wooden train
an as wooden train as ..
a more wooden train than ...
the most wooden train
b. een drommelse jongen
* een even drommelse jongen als ...
* een drommelsere jongen dan ...
* de drommelste jongen
a devilish boy
an as devilish boy as ...
a more devilish boy than ...
the most devilish boy
c. de vermeende dader
* een even vermeende dader
* een vermeendere dader
* de vermeendste dader
the alleged culprit
an as alleged culprit as ...
a more alleged culprit
the most alleged culprit

Although some absolute adjectives, like dood'dead' and levend'alive', only allow comparative or superlative formation under very special conditions, the examples in (3) show that comparison generally does seem to be possible with absolute adjectives. Nevertheless this chapter will be mainly concerned with the scalar adjectives, assuming that, unless stated otherwise, scalar and absolute adjectives behave more or less the same; see Section for a general discussion of scalar, absolute, and gradable adjectives.

a. De fles is vol/leeg.
  the bottle  is full/empty
a'. Deze tafel is rond.
  this table is round
b. % De fles is even vol/leeg als ...
  the bottle  is as full/empty as ...
b'. Deze tafel is even rond als
  this table is as round as ...
c. % De fles is voller/leger dan ...
  the bottle  is fuller/emptier than ...
c'. Deze tafel is ronder dan ...
  this table is rounder than ...
d. % De fles is het volst/leegst.
  the bottle  is the fullest/emptiest
d'. Deze tafel is het rondst ...
  this table is the roundest
    report errorprintcite