“More strenger and mightier”: Some remarks on double comparison in Middle English

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Adam Mickiewicz University

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The marginal participation of double comparison1, like more nicer, in adjective gradation in historical and contemporary English has been corroborated by numerical evidence (Kytö and Romaine 1997, 2000; González-Díaz 2004, 2006a). The studies in question, however, failed to address some data limitations and their distorting impact on the picture of real language use. Although this omission may seem less striking regarding the historical sources, it nevertheless calls for an immediate remedy. Also, the alleged marginal participation of the construction in adjective gradation, as well as its grounds, require thorough verification. What cannot be ignored, is the fact that a clear contradiction exists between the disappearance of double comparison from standard English and its popularity and persistence in colloquial speech and manifold nonstandard varieties of English and other genetically related languages. In other words, even though in the analysed data, the appearance of double comparison in English appears to be as abrupt as is its demise, its ubiquity outside the standard varieties points to a continuous development not reflected in the surviving record or the analysed contemporary corpora. With a view to this, this paper aims at an analysis based on data (so far excluded from investigations) representing the period of the highest incidence of the construction, i.e. Middle English. Also, bearing in mind the limitations of historical record, apart from synchronicallyor diachronically-oriented explanations, the study proposes resorting to some externally-oriented explanations (cf. Good, forthcoming).





Studia Anglica Posnaniensia, vol. 43 (2007), pp. 195-217



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego