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Modification of the superlative
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There are various specific constructions by means of which the superlative can be modified.

  1. Here, the superlative is used to indicate the position of a referent (which could be a nominalised adjective or a noun predetermined by the adjective) relative to another in an ordered list by means of a numeral:
    Example 1

    Hy is op een na die jongste.
    he is on one·NUM after the young·SUPL
    He is, but for one, the youngest.
  2. The prefix aller-of all or by far is used to reinforce the superlative semantic value of the adjective, as in
    Example 2

    die allergrootste leeu wat ons nog gesien het
    the by.far.large·SUPL lion which we yet seen have
    the largest lion by far which we had seen

    The prefix is very often used to mark a high degree adjective, without implying any particular comparison such as

    Example 3

    Sy het die allermooiste oë.
    she has the most.beautiful·SUPL eyes
    She has exceptionally beautiful eyes.
  3. A superlative may show up after a possessor, as in the following example:
    Example 4

    Boeke is my beste vriende.
    books are my good·SUPL friends
    Books are my best friends.
  4. There is an idiomatic correlative construction involving the ordinal superlative die eerstethe first and the superlative die bestethe best, as can be seen below:
    Example 5

    by die eerste die beste geleentheid
    at the one·ORD the good·SUPL opportunity
    at the earliest possible opportunity
  5. Superlatives can be postmodified by adding the word possible, as in the following example:
    Example 6

    die kortste moontlike pad
    the short·SUPL possible path
    the shortest possible path

    In a minority of cases, the attributive suffix of the superlative adjective is not added, as in Dutch and Frisian, since it determines the following (prenominal) adjective, and not the noun, for instance

    Example 7

    in die korts moontlike tyd
    in the short·SUPL possible time
    in the shortest possible time

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Superlative adjectives may be modified by elements placed before the adjective (premodification) or after (postmodification). In this section, premodification will be discussed first, followed by postmodification.

Four types of premodification will be dealt with, starting with the use of a prepositional phrase (in fact a prepositional phrase with a postpositional complement) which refers to a position on an ordered list.

  1. This construction is used adverbially in conjuction with both transitive and copulative verbs, and hence modifies a noun or nominalised adjective by indicating its relative position on an ordered list, as illustrated by these two examples:
    Example 8

    Hamilton het op twee na die vinnigste tyd opgestel.
    Hamilton has on two after the fast·SUPL time set.up
    Hamilton set up the third fastest time.
    Example 9

    Die agentskap is op een na die grootste in die wêreld.
    the agency is on one after the large·SUPL in the world
    The agency is the second largest in the world.

    Syntactically, the construction, functioning as an adverbial phrase, is not bound to a linear sequence adjacent to the superlative, and can occur elsewhere in the string because of focus movement. Example (9) could therefore also be structured as follows:

    Example 10

    Op een na is die agentskap die grootste in die wêreld.
    on one after is the agency the large·SUPL in the world
    Except for one, the agency is the largest in the world.

    Or even by way of postmodification, the adverbial phrase may be right dislocated, as in the example below:

    Example 11

    Die agentskap is die grootste in die wêreld, op een na.
    the agency is the large·SUPL in the world, on one after
    The agency is the largest in the world, except for one.

    Semantically, the construction could also refer to a numerical exception to an unordered quantity, as in this example:

    Example 12

    Op een na is almal vyftien jaar oud.
    on one after are all fifteen year old
    Except for one, everyone is fifteen years old.
  2. Another way in which the superlative can be modified, is morphological in nature, and involves the use of a prefix, aller-of all or by far. It will be shown that, in addition to reinforcing the superlative semantic value of the adjective, it is also used to mark a high degree adjective. An example of the use of the the prefix to reinforce the superlative semantic value of the adjective follows below:
    Example 13

    die allermooiste troue wat hulle al bygewoon het
    the by.far.beautifu·SUPL wedding which they yet attended have
    the most beautiful wedding by far they have yet attended

    Another way to express the emphasis reflected by aller- in the example above is the use of the construction verrewegby far, followed by the definite article and the superlative, as in

    Example 14

    verreweg die mooiste troue wat hulle al bygewoon het
    by.far the beautiful·SUPL wedding which they yet attended have
    by far the most beautiful wedding they have yet attended

    The prefix is very often used to mark a high degree adjective, without implying any particular comparison such as

    Example 15

    Sy moes onder die allerongunstigste omstandighede werk.
    she had.to under the most.adverse·SUPL circumstances work
    She had to work under the most adverse circumstances.
  3. A possessive pronoun as determiner can be used instead of a definite article to premodify the superlative adjective, thereby expressing an unequivocally superlative interpretation. In the example below, the referents are the two best shots, in comparison with all those we have.
    Example 16

    Hulle twee is ons beste skuts.
    they two are our good·SUPL shots
    They are our two best shots.

    However, the superlative can also have a subjective or high degree interpretation. In the example below, reference is made to a day (Monday), which is not normally the most pleasant of the days of the week to the interlocutor, or a very pleasant day of the week in her or his opinion:

    Example 17

    Maandag is nie my lekkerste dag nie.
    Monday is not my pleasant·SUPL day PTCL.NEG
    Monday is not my most pleasant day.

    The pragmatic context determines which reading is applicable.

    Furthermore, as in other instances of nominalised adjectives (cf. example (1)), the possessed nominalised superlative, as part of prepositional phrase, may also have a predicative or an adverbial function, as in these examples:

    Example 18

    Churchill was op sy beste met 'n paar whiskies agter die blad.
    Churchill was on his good·SUPL with a few whiskies behind the shoulder.blade
    Churchill was at his best after having had a few whiskies.
    Example 19

    Ek werk op my beste as ek alleen is.
    I work on my good·SUPL if I alone am
    I work best when I am alone.
  4. As illustrated by example (5), a correlative construction involving the ordinal superlative die eerstefirst and the superlative die bestebest can be used to express the interpretation the earliest / first occurring, as in
    Example 20

    Hulle het by die eerste die beste restaurant ingeloop.
    they have at the one·ORD the good·SUPL restaurant walked.in
    They entered the first restaurant they hit upon.
    Example 21

    Hy sit die motorsleutels sommer op die eerste die beste plek neer.
    he puts the car.keys just on the one·ORD the good·SUPL place down
    He simply puts down the car keys on the first available place.

    Some speakers do not repeat the definite article in the correlative construction, as in:

    Example 22

    die eerste beste bus na België
    the one·ORD good·SUPL bus to Belgium
    the first available bus to Belgium
  5. In addition to the optional right dislocation of the prepositional phrase op een na in conjunction with the superlative, as illustrated in example (11), another instance of postmodification is the addition of the word moontlikpossible, as in the following example:
    Example 23

    Dit sal die vinnigste moontlike roete wees.
    it will the fast·SUPL possible route be
    It will be the fastest possible route.

    Although the frequency of occurrence is relatively low, the attributive suffix of the superlative adjective is sometimes not added, as is the case in Dutch and Frisian, since the adjective is used as a determiner, as for instance in

    Example 24

    Pakette moet deur die vinnigs moontlike roete gestuur word.
    parcels must via the fast·SUPL possible route sent be
    Parcels must be sent via the fastest possible route.

    It should be noted that a phonological rule to simplify final consonant clusters is responsible for the apocope of -t when the attributive -e is not employed (cf. the Dutch and Frisian equivalent vinnigst fastest).

    The adjective moontlik possible can occasionally be replaced by the adjective denkbaar conceivable:

    Example 25

    die beste denkbare oplossing
    the good·SUPL thinkable solution
    the best solution conceivable
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