• Jelena M. Josijević


synthetic comparison, analytic comparison, disyllabic adjectives, American English


The system of comparative and superlative formation in English relies on both synthetic
(i.e. inflectional) and analytic (i.e. periphrastic) means. Numerous studies have aimed at analyzing
the impact of the final -y in choosing a comparison strategy. Their main focus is on testing the
potential impact of a wide repertoire of the linguistic factors that were assumed to be relevant in
making such choices, but their samples were relatively limited in terms of specific groups of adjectives,
such as those ending in -y. (e.g. LEECH, CULPEPER 1997; LINDQUIST 2000; MONDORF
2009; GONZALEZ-DIAZ 2009). About 20 to 30 adjectives were subjected to the various analyses,
leaving most members bearing this feature excluded. This paper aims at revisiting comparative
formation strategies in disyllabic adjectives ending in // and does so by analyzing the prevalence
of both comparison strategies in 277 different lexemes. Drawing on techniques familiar from
quantitative morphological typology (GREENBERG 1960; SZMRECSANYI 2012, 2016), the
analysis uses syntheticity and analyticity indices as the main indicators of frequency of both free
(more) and bound (-er) comparative morphemes. The quantitative data are retrieved from Corpus
of Contemporary American English. The results demonstrate that disyllabic adjectives ending in /ɪ/
are not a uniform class. The attributed feature of being inclined toward synthetic comparison does
not apply to all members of this class or at least not to the expected level.


Download data is not yet available.


CHEUNG AND ZHANG 2016: CHEUNG, Lawrence and Longtu ZHANG. “Determinants of the synthetic-analytic variation across English comparatives and superlatives.” English Language and Linguistics, 20, 3 (2016): 559–583.

GONZALEZ-DIAZ 2009: GONZALEZ-DIAZ, Victorina. English Adjective Comparison: A Historical Perspective. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009.

GREENBERG 1960: GREENBERG, Joseph H. “A quantitative approach to the morphological typology of language.” International Journal of American Linguistics, 26, 3 (1960): 178–194.

HILPERT 2008: HILPERT, Martin. “The English comparative – language structure and language use.” English Language and Linguistics, 12 (2008): 395–417.

JOSIJEVIĆ 2018: ЈОСИЈЕВИЋ Јелена. „Компарација придева са значењем боја у савременом енглеском језику: Аналитизам и фреквентност употребе”. Наслеђе, 39 (2018): 59–68.

KYTÖ AND ROMAINE 1997: KYTÖ, Merja and Suzanne ROMAINE. “Competing forms of adjective comparison in modern English: What could be more quicker and easier and more effective?” NEVALAINEN, Terttu and Leena KAHLAS-TARKKA (eds.). To Explain the Present: Studies in the Changing English Language in Honour of Mattie Rissanen. Helsinki: Societe Neophilologique, 1997: 329–352.

LEECH AND CULPEPER 1997: LEECH, Geoffrey and Jonathan Culpeper. “The comparison of adjectives in recent British English.” NEVALAINEN, Terttu and Leena KAHLAS-TARKKA (eds.). To Explain the Present: Studies in the Changing English Language in Honour of Matti Rissanen. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997: 125–132.

LINDQUIST 2000: LINDQUIST, Hans. “Livelier or more lively? Syntactic and contextual factors influencing the comparison of disyllabic adjectives.” KIRK, John (ed.). Corpora Galore: Analysis and Techniques in Exploring English, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000: 125–132.

MONDORF 2003: MONDORF, Britta. “Support for More-Support.” ROHDENBURG, Günter and Britta Mondorf (eds.). Determinants of grammatical variation in English, Topics in English Linguistics. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2003: 251–304.

MONDORF 2006: MONDORF, Britta. “Rewriting English grammar books: Factors constraining the choice between synthetic and analytic comparative forms.” HOUSWITSCHKA, Chrstoph, Gabriele KNAPPE, and Anja Müller (eds.). Proceedings of the Anglistentag 2005. Bamberg, Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2006: 587–607.

MONDORF 2009: MONDORF, Britta. More support for More-Support: The role of processing constraints on the choice between synthetic and analytic comparative forms (Studies in Language Variation). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2009.

MONDORF 2014: MONDORF, Britta. “(Apparently) competing motivations in morphosyntactic variation.” MACWHINNEY, Brian, Andrej MALCHUKOV, and Edith MORAVICSIK (eds.). Competing Motivations in Grammar and Usage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014: 209–228.

PARK AND JEON 2011. PARK, Hana and Moongee JEON. “A corpus-based analysis of inflectional and periphrastic comparatives in English disyllabic adjectives.” English Language Teaching, 23, 1, 2011: 169–181.

SCRIVNER 2010: SCRIVNER, Olga. “The white is more firm and the yolk is rounder: comparative variation in American English.” Proceedings of New Ways of Analysing Variation (NWAV), 39, <> 26.03.2015

SMEDS 2007: SMEDS, Fredrik. Adjective Comparison in Contemporary British English: A Corpus Study of More than One Hundred Adjectives. Karlstads: Estetisk-filosofiska fakulteten, Karlstads universitet, 2007. <> 05.07.2019

SZMRECSANYI 2012: SZMRECSANYI, Benedikt. “Analyticity and Syntheticity in the History of English.” NEVALAINEN, Terttu and Elisabeth CLOSS (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of the History of English. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012: 654–665.

SZMRECSANYI 2016: SZMRECSANYI, Benedikt. “Аn Analytic-Synthetic Spiral in the History of English.” VAN GELDEREN, Elly. Cyclical Change Continued. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2016: 93–112.