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Degrees of Comparison


Number

System of Declensions

Case

Gender

The Development of the Adjective

See Lecture 14 for general information on the Adjective.

Historically the Adjective is a younger class of words as compared to the Noun. So it has borrowed many of its categories and inflections from the Noun and the Pronoun.

The Adjective had the following categories:

 

It still existed in OE but was the first category to disappear in the 11th c.

· At the end of OE Period Instrumental Case fell together with Dative Case due to the homonymy of inflections (see the table below);

· All other cases disappeared by the end of the 13th c. also due to the homonymy of inflections (see the table below).

The system of declension was inherited from PG. Adjectives had two declensions that had to do also with the category of determinationstrong(definite) and weak (indefinite) – and unlike nouns practically all adjectives could be declined both ways (by strong and weak declension). So an adjective did not belong to a particular declension, its declension depended on several factors that will be mentioned below:

 

Type of Declension Strong(definite) Weak(indefinite)
Borrowed inflections from a-stemando-stem from n-stem
Factors for distinguishing type of declension – Adj used attributively without any determiners (demonstrative pronouns); – Adj used predicatively. – Adj preceded by a demonstrative pronoun or Genitive Case of a noun;
Gender Neuter Neuter
Number Singular Plural Singular Plural
OE Cases Nominative blind blind blinde blindan
Genitive blindes blindra blindan blindra
Dative blindum blindum blindan blindum
Accusative blind blind blinde blindan
Instrumental blinde blindum blindan blindum
ME Cases disappeared blind blinde blinde blinde

 

There were exceptions from the rule: some adjectives were declined always strong (eall (all), maniζ (many), ōþer (other)), others – always weak (ilca (same)).

The endings of the adjectives showed the agreement between a noun and an adjective. There were a lot of homonymous forms (e.g. -um (OE) – N, Sg, Dat, strong; N, Pl, Dat, strong; N, Pl, Dat, weak; N, Pl, Instr, strong; N, Pl, Instr, weak; -e (ME) – N, Pl, strong; N, Sg, weak; N, Pl, weak) à the distinction between the declensions faded in ME and the declensions disappeared as far as there was no necessity any more to keep them.



 

There were some homonymous forms in Singular and Plural in both declensions (see the table above: e.g. -um (OE) – N, Sg, Dat, strong; N, Pl, Dat, strong; -e (ME) – N, Sg, weak; N, Pl, weak), so the category of Number disappeared together with the system of declensions.

 

The Adjective lost many of its categories in ME as far as all the inflections were lost. Thus it became an unchangeable part of speech.

In OE there were three ways of formation of the degrees of comparison:

 

Way of formation Positive Degree Comparative Degree Superlative Degree
inflections soft softra softost
root-sound interchange + inflections lonζ lenζra lenζest
suppletion ζōd bettra betest

 

In ME the following changes happened:

· In most cases inflections -er, -est were used to form the comparative and the superlative degrees;

· Root-sound interchange fell into disuse (long – longer – longest), though in some cases it was preserved as an exception from the rule (e.g. old – elder – eldest; far – further – furthest);

· A new way of formation of the degrees of comparison appeared:

more + Adj (comparative) || most + Adj (superlative)

It was applicable to all adjectives and was interchangeable with -er, -est way of formation till 17th – 18th c.In NE, during the Normalisation Period, the modern rule appeared and this way was applicable only to a certain group of adjectives.

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