Talk:Superlative

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Unless someone has sources which support superlatives being ungrammatical in groups of cardinality less than three, they oughtn't make that claim on this page, I left it as a claim made by some as part of their grammars, but it would be best if they would link to a specific English grammar which made this claim. It certainly isn't Universally accepted. -- 216.143.191.131


The article starts by defining superlative as "...an adjective or adverb [that] indicates that an entity transcends at least two other entities," But then goes on to say later that one other entity is sufficient, contradicting itself. I assume this was the result of differing opinions editing at different stages, but the article really should be unified. I'll get round to this later if no-one has any objections. — Asbestos | Talk 12:44, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

No one has any objections. As it stands, the initial, general paragraph makes little sense. The one, single reference given is to a little piece by Arnold Zwicky which attacks this strange idea that the superlative cannot be used unless there are more than two things involved. -- Greg (talk) 23:30, 18 December 2009 (UTC)

Here is a link from Merriam Webster that says the "superlative of two is alive and well in current English". The reference that is used in the article to justify the claim that "when comparing only two entities, use of the superlative is ungrammatical" does not support the claim at all. In fact, the reference says, "that it takes three to make a superlative, is not a rule of English and is therefore irrelevant to any ethical considerations." Additionally, it only references the use of the superlative "best" when comparing two or more entities. I have no idea how this claim accompanied by an irrelevant reference made it into the article, but I will be removing it. --InnerSpace (talk) 15:54, 19 April 2010 (UTC) http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&pg=PA881&lpg=PA881&dq=%22superlative+of+two%22&source=bl&ots=nYwQndwZZ1&sig=FnLAIXc4T2YfJaXfFcPjVZZHNFc&hl=en&ei=gxvLS-2nPIWKlwfg7cGqBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22superlative%20of%20two%22&f=false

Superlatives in other languages[edit]

Hi Aav, perhaps you can clarify this for me? You are saying "the comparative superlative is created by inserting one of the adjectives "plus" or "moins" between the definite article and the adjective determining the noun". What exactly is a "comparative superlative" in French? Surely any superlative in French is formed that way - la plus belle femme. The determiner plus between the definite article and the adjective always indicates the superlative? It is either a "comparative" or a "superlative"? It can't be both? Dieter Simon 00:00, 24 March 2006 (UTC)

In French, the superlative is formed by adding in the definite article, not plus. So you can have a comparative and a superlative both with plus in it, but the superlative will have the definite article. Example:

Comparative: Cette femme est plus belle. This woman is more beautiful.

Superlative: Cette femme est la plus belle. This woman is the most beautiful.

Hope this answers your question. :)

(Moonbeast 20:35, 17 April 2006 (UTC))

Yes, indeed, that does make sense.
Thank you for enlightening this old codger. Dieter Simon 00:02, 18 April 2006 (UTC)

Elatives?[edit]

I see a reference to "elative" (as a third category alongside comparative and superlative). It seems from the discussion that "elative" refers to the preceding section on "superlatives with absolutes", but I cannot find a definition here or elsewhere laying out what exactly "elative" means. Any thoughts / recommendations?

TimothyMills (talk) 18:41, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

Use of 'superlative' to mean 'really good'?[edit]

Being a bit of a stickler, I've long been bothered by the use of the word 'superlative' as an adjective in itself - usually a synonym for 'great', 'fantastic', 'cool', and suchlike. "That was a superlative performance", as one sports commentator once put it. This has always sounded wrong to me (if only because in that usage it could suggest either the best or the worst performance, or the biggest, the smallest, the strangest - and so on). But I've never been able to find an authoritative source indicating whether such usage is acceptable or not. Some dictionaries list it as such simply because they record usage. Is this an issue for anyone else, and should it be addressed in this article? If so, does anyone know of any good references? - Skadus (talk) 13:20, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

It is absolutely no issue or problem at all. In grammatical theory it represents the third degree of an adjective or adverb (see "The Oxford Companion to the English Language, edit. Tom McArthur, Oxford University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-19-214183-X). It is and always has been part of the description of the highest, lowest, best, or yes the worst and in the short forms suffixed by "-est", and its longer forms expressed by "(the) most". What ever later developments have taken place, such as in the usage "it was a superlative performance" as you state, is merely the fact that language moves on and people invent new ways expressing themselves. Language is a live thing and will evolve as time goes on. Dieter Simon (talk) 17:14, 9 October 2008 (UTC) Dieter Simon (talk) 17:17, 9 October 2008 (UTC)
Hmm. I guess I'll have to accept that, then. For the record, though, on the point about language being 'a live thing', I do believe that that assertion is used at least as often as an excuse as it is to explain the natural evolution of language. I fully accept that usage changes over time. However, I also think that the primary function of language is to enable people to understand each other, and consistency - the 'rules', if you like - serves that function. - Skadus (talk) 20:23, 9 October 2008 (UTC)
Skadus, you may already be aware of the debate between linguistic descriptivists and prescriptivists, but if you aren't, you might find interesting reading in descriptive linguistics and linguistic prescription. For the record, Wikipedia is generally descriptivist; prescription in articles is often removed as original research. I think you make a valid point that the "rules" exist for good reason, but again, that's less relevant when constructing an encyclopedia. -Phoenixrod (talk) 20:38, 9 October 2008 (UTC)
Yes, that's fair comment. As I said, my prescriptivism - if that's what I'm to call it - comes from a concern not that words will change their meaning (most of them have, and I use the evolved versions as enthusiastically as anyone else in most cases), so much as a concern that clarity is lost through uncritically embracing every change, without questioning whether it's down to the natural evolution of language or just ignorance of the language as it stands. For what it's worth, though I have been called a 'grammar nazi' before, I think I'd probably place myself somewhere in the middle of this: I'm prescriptivist in terms of trying to maintain clarity and consistency in language; I'm descriptivist in accepting that languages do change and that it isn't always necessary to resist that. I just like to think that I don't reject or accept without question. I'm simply cautious about allowing the fact that language changes over time to be used as an excuse for ignoring rules and guidelines as they currently exist. - Skadus (talk) 10:41, 13 October 2008 (UTC)
It is probably not so much a question of descriptivism versus prescriptivism. It is more a question of how you describe or what you call the concept of the utmost degree in language. All concepts have been given a name and "superlative" has been the grammatic handle of the utmost degree by tradition. OK, so you don't agree with the term "superlative". You would have to find another term for it, would'nt you? Or are you saying there is no such concept? I am certain, whatever other term you would find or invent for it, someone would find fault with it.
I'd like to be clear here: I don't object to the term 'superlative'. If I object to anything - or, let's say, if there's something that doesn't sit right with me - it's the use of 'superlative' as a synonym for 'good', 'magnificent', 'excellent', or any of the other perfectly good words for describing something favourably. - Skadus (talk) 10:41, 13 October 2008 (UTC)
Apart from that, the fact that the word "superlative" has so many other meanings, doesn't mean its grammatic significance doesn't exist. A very similar thing happens with the second degree, that of "comparative". Though it stands for words such as "better", "higher", "worse", etc. it certainly has other meanings as well as adjective or adverb. The usage in "he is a comparative stranger" is well enough known, as something being in comparison to something else, but that doesn't invalidate the name of the concept of the second degree of an adjective or adverb. Dieter Simon (talk) 01:21, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
Actually, I have wandered off your subject a bit, I suddenly realised. Yes, you are right you actually agree with the term "superlative" in its grammatic form, just that people invent new meanings for it, is what you take exception to. Though I agree with you. There are many other examples where people start "misusing" the original term, as in the example of "hopefully" as in "hopefully the sun is going to shine", ultimately grammar books and dictionaries bow to the demand and accept what gradual changes there are. I must stop, it is getting late. Dieter Simon (talk) 01:34, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
Yes, you're right. And yes, as I say, I do accept that usage changes and that dictionaries and the like relate language as it's used rather than dictating how it's used. Hopefully (hah) I've made my position a bit clearer above. :o) - Skadus (talk) 10:41, 13 October 2008 (UTC)
Its continued usage (or misusage, if you prefer), in place of the word superb I would like to firmly place the credit for in the hands of one Murray_Walker, who I can remember starting this habit in the late 1990s. It ought to be another hilarious example of Colemanballs but, now that the replacement generation of sports commentators have learnt by copying what they heard him say on the television, the misuage is increasing, not dying out. I don't know if there's a word for it but the concept I would like to convey, here, is that practice of using uncommon words or phraseology, in an attempt to sound clever, without actually stopping to check what the words mean first. The person might succeed in impressing those who are more ignorant than them but simultaneously make themselves appear ignorant to those who really do know what the word actually means. The practice of passively observing and recording the modern usage of the words assures that its evolution will continue to be directed, largely, by its most incompetant users. This is, mercifully, a unique attitude. Thank your favourite deity that the design and construction of plumbing, wiring, computing devices, nuclear power plants and a whole lot else that keeps us alive are not 'evolved' through analgous practices. EatYerGreens (talk) 06:48, 21 April 2014 (UTC)

Find Your Own Citations?[edit]

From the article: "Browsing in some of the best-known search-engines for "more complete" or "most complete" would establish the frequency of this usage by many millions of examples."

I'm not sure that "go look it up for yourself" is the ideal approach for Wikipedia. Have we got an actual citation we can put in here? Also, I've tagged a couple of statements in the paragraph in question because they seem to be assertions made without any actual citations (the claim that using a superlative with incomparables like 'unique' is grammatically okay because it doesn't really mean what it says, but actually means something else). Usage might make this point, and yes, a Goog Your Favourite Search Engine search might support that to some extent, but I'd be hesitant to rely on an Internet search alone to give me an authoritative answer on anything. - Skadus (talk) 10:26, 13 October 2008 (UTC)


Romance Languages?[edit]

I think you mean ROMANIC languages

See Romance languages. Langrel (talk) 21:33, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

Merge[edit]

I suggested that Superlative case be merged into here. It would be easy to include a section, and it is an unreferenced stub as-is. DietFoodstamp (talk) 22:24, 8 May 2012 (UTC)

The superlative case is a totally different thing. So I presumed to remove the "merge to" template from the article. Kontos (talk) 00:09, 20 August 2012 (UTC)