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The English adjective. The problem of the number of forms of degrees of comparison.

Opinions differ on the number of degrees of comparison adjectives have. Traditionally we point out three basic forms though some scholars claim there are only two.

O. Jespersen, for example, writes: "From a formal point of view we have two degrees of comparison :Comparative and Superlative. The regular way of forming them is by adding the endings -er and -est to the ground-form, which is called Positive" .So he denies the fact that the first form in the paradigm expresses any idea of comparison.

We do not agree with this point of view as we consider that even the positive degree expresses not only 'quality proper' but 'comparison' as well. Here are some arguments:

1) in the example (The water ran cold)the reader feels the increase of the degree of coldness though grammatically it is not expressed.

So it is logical to suppose that in the semantic structure of qualitative adjectives there exists the seme(сема) of comparison.

2) let us analyze the meaning (semantic structure) of the positive degree of comparison in the sentences He is placid In different contexts they mean different things(He is more placid than his neighbour.2. He is more placid than he was yesterday.3. He is the most placid of the three.4.. He isplacid rather than irritable.

The semantic structure of the positive degree of comparison reveals the complete paradigm of comparison including "direct" and "reverse"(обратное) comparison: (. the least ― less ― placid ― more ― the most

placid placid placid placid)

Thus, the positive degree contains the semantics of comparison.

3) there is no sense in the phrase The mouse is big if there are no bigger or smaller mice. To conclude that The elephant is small one should compare it with other representatives of the same class. So the positive degree is not always the starting point but is also the result of comparison.

The comparative and superlative degrees are relative(сравнительные) in meaning, because they denote comparison but in different ways. In the example Helen is older than her sister Helen may be very young, the comparative form older only indicates that Helen possesses more of the quality 'being of a certain age' than her sister. The same phenomenon can be traced in the example Helen is the oldest .On the basis of all this A.I. Smirnitsky speaks only of two forms of comparison: the positive degreeand the relative degree which in its turn is built up of the comparative and superlative degrees.


To present a decent(подходящее) explanation he takes the adjective long and claims that long, longer and longest denote one and the same concrete quality, namely – the quality of length. But long contains no comparison. In case with longer the quality is shown in comparison with the same quality in some other object. The form longest presupposes that the object characterized by the given quality is compared with the whole class of things possessing the same quality, and among them it appears to have the highest degree of it.

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