Archaic and Derived Superlatives

Recall the standard stem for Latin comparatives is -issimus. However, most student of Latin are familiar with a  variety of alternative, irregular forms. For instance:

  • Bonus, melior, optimus
  • Malus, peior, pessimus
  • Magnus, maior, maximus

These are all more archaic forms of the superlatives. (Hence there appearance in very basic, common adverbs, which we can predict would be more resistant to phonological change due to frequency of use.)

  • timus
  • īmus
  • summus

Furthermore, A&G note that certain superlative adjectives are derived from their comparative forms, not from their positives. They aren’t explicit about how this works, but the example they offer is extrēmus, which might go exterior –> *exterīmus –> extrēmus.

  • A&G compare this to the derivative development of ‘childish’ superlatives like the English furtherer and furtherest. Again, this is all a little mysterious to me, as a non-phonologist. If anyone has thoughts, I would love to hear them.

The Essential AG: 130an2

Defective Comparatives and Superlatives

Positive-Defective Comparative Adjectives

Summary of Defection

Ordinary adjectives have a positive, comparative and superlative form

The following comparative and superlative forms either (a) have no positive form, (b) have a preposition as their positive form, (c) have an adverb as their positive form or (d) have only very rare positive adjectives

Comparatives With No Positives

  • — / ōcior, -ius / ōcissimus, -a, -um : — / swifter / swiftest
  • — / potior, -ius / potissimus, -, um : — / preferred / most preferred

Comparatives with Adverbial Positives

  • cis, citrā / citerior, -ius / citimus, -a, -um : on this side / hither / histermost
  • prope / proprior, -ius / proximus, -a, um : near / nearer / nearest, next
  • ultrā / ulterior, -ius / ultimus, -a, -um : beyond / farther / farthest

Comparatives with Prepositional Positives

  • dē / dēterior, -ius / dēterrimus, -a, -um : down / worse / worse (n.b. not more down)
  • in, intrā / interior, -ius / intimus, -a, -um : in, within / inner / inmost
  • prae, prō / prior, -ius / prīmus, -a, -um : before / former / first

Comparatives with Rare Positives

  • exterus, -a, -um / exterior, -ius / extrēmus, -a, -um : outward / outer / outmost
  • īnferus, -a, -um / īnferior, -ius / īnfimus (-īmus), -a, -um : below / lower / lowest
  • posterus, -a, -um / posterior, -ius / postrēmus (postumus), -a, -um : following / later / last (last-born)
  • superus, -a, um / superior, -ius / suprēmus (summus), -a, -um : above / higher /highest
Positives in this category, where they appear, are substantives. The īnferī are the gods the underworld, extrēmī are foreigners and Postumus is a common surname.

Essential AG: 130, 130a-b

Famous Phrase: videō meliōra probōque / dēteriōra sequor 

(I see and approve the better, but follow the worse) [Ovid, Metamorphoses, 7.20-1]

positive_defect_comparatives_summary.pdf