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LINGUIST List 18.3003

Mon Oct 15 2007

Qs: Origin of More + Adj vs. Adj + -er in English

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        1.    Peyton Todd, Origin of More + Adj vs. Adj + -er in English

Message 1: Origin of More + Adj vs. Adj + -er in English
Date: 12-Oct-2007
From: Peyton Todd <peytontoddmindspring.com>
Subject: Origin of More + Adj vs. Adj + -er in English
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Does anyone know why English uses Adjective + -er (and -est) for shorter
words but More (and Most) + Adjective for longer words? I presume the
former is derived from Anglo-Saxon since German does it that way, while the
latter is derived from the Normans, since French does it that way. Is that
right? But how did it turn out that we settled this conflict in favor of
dividing up the work between short words and long words?

Although my main interest in this case is because is stands as a
counterexample to the tendency of languages to solve similar tasks in the
same way, so I want to know exactly why the conflict was resolved in this
way, any other information you may be able to provide would be helpful. For
example, what is the exact rule anyway? It can't be just the number of
syllables, e.g. 2-syllable 'pretty' leads to 'prettier', but 2-syllable
'mindful' leads to 'more mindful'. And when did it happen? Has anyone
traced its gradual appearance in the vocabulary based on e.g., word
frequency, region, social class, or other factors?

Thanks for your help,
Peyton Todd

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

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