In this chapter, we ask how degree is marked on adjectives when they occur in comparative constructions of inequality such as English Mary is taller than Peter, where a comparee NP (Mary) is compared with a standard NP (Peter) with respect to a parameter (tallness). In such constructions, many (especially European) languages mark the comparative degree on the adjective either by a suffix, e.g. English -er in tall-er, or by a degree word, e.g. French plus 'more' in plus grand 'bigger'.
We use adjective here in a semantic sense to refer to gradable property concepts, e.g. 'big', 'small', 'short', 'long' (cf. also Chapter 3 on order of adjective and noun). Morphosyntactically these property concepts can be encoded as verbs, nouns, or as a separate word class (adjectives). In comparative constructions, the standard can be marked in various ways (see Chapter 42 on comparative standard marking). For the present chapter, we only consider constructions in which the standard is present (e.g. Peter in Mary is taller than Peter), not constructions in which the standard is contextually omitted (e.g. Mary is taller), because some languages use a different construction when the standard is not expressed.
In this feature, we distinguish two values:
|Adjective is marked||36||23||59|
|Adjective is not marked||15||23||38|
If comparative degree marking is optional, we regard this here as two different constructions, and in this case both values have been chosen.
The most prominent type within the APiCS languages is represented by value 1, where the adjective is marked, most often by a particle or degree word meaning 'more' (e.g. masi in Angolar, pli in Mauritian Creole, lebih in Singapore Bazaar Malay, moa in Bislama, mɛr in Berbice Dutch):
In some English-based APiCS languages, the adjective suffix -er and the degree word more can be used simultaneously to mark the adjective, as in Trinidad English Creole, African American English, Bahamian Creole and others (cf. also the feature "Double comparatives and superlatives" in eWAVE, Kortmann & Lunkenheimer 2011, feature 78):
In French-based APiCS languages, we find a similar double marking with pli (< French plus ‘more’) and some suppletive comparatives inherited from French, for example in Seychelles Creole pli meyer 'better' (< French meilleur).
As for the position of the comparative marker with regard to the property word, there is some variation across and within the APiCS languages. In Berbice Dutch, the comparative marker mɛr(ɛ) can either precede (cf. 5a) or follow the adjective (cf. 5b).
Some languages allow for great variability in comparative adjective marking. For example, in Vincentian Creole, the adjective suffix -a can occur on its own (cf. 6a), or it can combine with two different degree words, preposed mo (cf. 6b) and postposed moo (cf. 6c). Finally, the two degree words can occur circumposed to the adjective (cf. 6d):
In some languages, the comparative marking of the adjective is discontinuous, i.e. comparative marker and adjective are not adjacent, as can be seen in example (7) from Korlai. Here the comparative marker mayz is separated from the adjective piken 'small' by the noun phrase representing the standard (ki Pedru 'than Pedru').
Sometimes it seems difficult to distinguish comparative markers (which belong to the adjective) from standard markers (which belong to the standard), especially when no standard marker is used. The following example from Casamancese Creole is such a case:
In example (8), ma(s) could be interpreted as an ambiguous comparative adjective/standard marker. But when the standard is absent, as in example (9), it becomes obvious that ma(s) is the comparative adjective marker, and that the standard Pidru is inserted between this comparative adjective marker and the adjective riku:
This means that the Casamancese Creole example in (8) is parallel to the Korlai example in (7): both show insertion of the standard with the difference that the standard is not marked in (8) (see Chapter 42 on standard marking).
Languages displaying value 2 do not mark the adjective in comparative constructions. Here we can distinguish two subtypes. In languages like Fanakalo (ex. 10) and Gullah (ex. 11), the adjective is not marked, but from the presence of a standard (with its standard marker) the hearer can infer that the two entities are being compared.
Another subtype of value 2 consists in juxtaposing two separately asserted predications. The comparison again has to be inferred from the context. One example comes from Pidgin Hawaiian:
Twenty-three APiCS languages show both values 1 and 2. Pichi is typical in this respect. The two constructions are parallel: they are serial verb constructions with a secondary 'pass' verb (see also Chapter 42 on comparative standard marking), the only difference being that in example (13a), representing value 1, the adjective is marked by the degree word mɔ, whereas in example (13b), illustrating value 2, the adjective big is not marked.
Other languages with values 1 and 2 show a European comparative construction type, where the adjective is marked by a degree word like in Guadeloupean Creole: I pli gran ki mwen. [3SG more tall than 1SG] 'He/she is taller than me'. Additionally, these languages have a secondary 'pass' construction where the adjective is not marked as in (13b) from Pichi.