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4.1 Comparative

The comparative adjective is distinguished from the positive degree of the adjective by the addition of a word or a morpheme, as in the following examples:

  • Positive degree: fluch beautiful
  • Comparative degree (majorative): flugger more beautiful

The comparative is used to compare two participants having the same thematic relation to the adjective. The comparative usually takes the perspective of the higher degree, hence the majorative form, as in the example above. However, it is also possible to express the same relation from the opposite perspective. If the perspective of the lower degree is taken, the minorative form is used, as in the following example:

  • Positive degree: fluch beautiful
  • Comparative degree (minorative): minner flug less beautiful

On the formation of comparative and superlative forms, see Morphology.

Various aspects of the comparative AP are discussed in the sections below.

[+]1. The majorative and minorative comparative

The majorative and minorative comparatives are each other’s mirror image. Consider a majorative example like (1) below:

Hie is gratter as iek.
he is bigger than me
He is bigger than me.

Here two participants (hie ‘he’ and iek ‘I’) are compared to each other with respect to the degree of the adjective. The adjective has the majorative form, and this entails that the majorative participant is expressed in the adjective’s argument position, here the subject position. The minorative participant is expressed in an adverbial phrase headed by the complementiser as ‘than’. The adverbial phrase is optional, and in case it is absent, the minorative participant must be inferred from the discourse. The minorative participant sets the relative degree limit.

We can express the meaning of (1) above in the form of a minorative as well, as in (2):

Iek bän minner groot as hie.
I am less big than he
I am less big than him.

In that case, the majorative and minorative arguments switch position, as is clear from a comparison of (1) and (2). Now the minorative argument occupies the canonical argument position and the majorative argument is realised in the adverbial phrase. The minorative comparative is rare in Saterland Frisian.

The form of the minorative comparative degree can only be expressed periphrastically, that is, with the addition of the word minner ‘less’, and not morphologically by means of the suffix -er, as in the case of the majorative. The standard for comparison, the degree limit, appears in an adverbial phrase introduced by the complementiser as ‘than’, as in the examples below:

Aal hiere froaien Dahlien, een flugger as ju uur.
all her nice dahlias one more.beautiful than the other
Wie hieden dan noch fuul moor Frantsosenkruud as dät Jier deerfoar.
we had then even much more quickweed than the year before
Then we had even more quickweed than the year before.

The participant expressed in adverbial phrase sets the degree limit for the comparison. If the participant in the argument position exceeds the degree limit, the majorative form of the adjective is used. If the participant in the argument position falls below the degree limit, then the minorative form of the adjective is used. The degree limit is perhaps a better term than comparative complement, since the latter term is ambiguous. A further example is given below:

Die waas nit minner strom.
that was not less strict
He wasn’t less strict.

Here the degree limit is implicit. The minorative is more usually expressed by the negation of the word so ‘so’. An example is given below:

Domoals hieden do Ljude nit so ädder Fiereeuwend as dälich.
past.times had the people not so early free.from.work as dälich.
In those days, people didn’t have so free from

The word so ‘so’ may participate both in equative and high degree shades of meaning. Its negation entails a lower degree than the degree limit expressed in the adverbial phrase

A comparative may involve participants which are quite abstract. In the following example, two properties are compared:

Ik hoolde je fon sünich moor as fon ruum.
I keep indeed of frugal more than of lavish
I certainly love frugal more than lavish.

The comparative moor ‘more’ here sets up a quantitative scale on which the degree of love is measured which the speaker has for two competing properties. The comparative moor ‘more’ is an adverb here modifying the verb.

[+]2. Gap in the comparative complement

In the following example, moor ‘more’ functions as a direct object to the verb in the main clause, and causes a direct object gap to occur in the adverbial clause:

Aan Gäk kon je moor fräigje as dät tjoon wise Ljude beontwoudje konnen.
a fool can indeed more ask as that ten wise people answer can
A fool can ask more than ten wise persons can answer.

The embedded adverbial clause lacks an overt direct object, since its object is co-interpreted with the direct object in the main clause. The direct object inside the adverbial clause, though absent, has a clear quantitative meaning. The sentence as a whole compares the amount of questions of the main clause to the amount of answers of the embedded clause.

[+]3. Complementisers and the comparative AP

The sentence above also illustrates that there are two complementisers present. The first complementiser is the comparative complementiser. The second one is the default subordinating conjunction. Note that the presence of the first complementiser doesn’t cause the absence of the second complementiser, as is the case in the German equivalent of the sentence above:

Ein Narr kann mehr fragen, als sieben Weise beantworten können.
a fool can more ask as seven wise answer can
A fool can ask more than ten wise persons can answer.

Nevertheless, such examples of a redundant complementiser are rare. Saterland Frisian normally features the German pattern with one complementiser.

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