Comparison of Adjectives

There are a variety of ways to hide the stem of a adjective in its nominative form.

  • baburrus, -a, -um (stem barburo-) silly
  • levis, -e (stem levi-) fickle
  • fēlīx (stem fēlīc-) blessed
  • hebes (stem hebet-) dull

However, the majority of adjectives of all stem formations become comparatives and superlatives in the same way: with the addition of -ior (m/f) / ius (n) for comparatives, and the addition of -issimus, -a, -um for superlatives.

  • baburrus, -a, -um / baburrior, -ius / barburrissimus, -a, -um
  • levis, -e / levior, -ius / levissimus, -a, -um
  • fēlīx / fēlīcior, -ius / fēlīcissimus, -a, -um
  • hebes / hebetior, -ius / hebetissimus, -a, -um

There are a few things to note here. If an adjective is compared regularly,

  • It’s case ending will always have two options (m/f or n) for the comparative and three options (m or f or n) for the superlative, regardless of how many it had for the positive.
  • Stress accents will always appear on the penultimate vowel (for comparatives) or the ultimate vowel (for superlatives) of the stem.

babúrrior, baburríssimus / lévior, levísssimus / fēlícior, fēlīcíssimus / hebétior, hebetíssimus

Of course, it can always shift further forward, but never further back. The comparatives declines like so:

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 7.42.56 AM(photo credit, Wiktionary)

The superlatives decline like a regular first/second declension adjectives, regardless of how their positives decline:

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 7.49.18 AM(photo credit, Wiktionary)

The Essential AG: 120, 123-4

Greek and Latin Comparatives

There is a certain kinship between Greek and Latin (a) comparative and (b) superlative forms, as well as between (c) a particular branch of Latin positive adjectives and Greek comparatives.

To recall your knowledge of positives, comparatives, and superlatives in each language, let’s view  a few examples:

  • Dark, darker, darkest
  • niger, nigrior, nigerrimus
  • μέλας, μελάντερος, μελάντατος
  • Big, bigger, biggest
  • magnus, maior, maximus
  • μέγας, μείζων, μεγίστος
  • Dear, dearer, dearest
  • cārus, cārior, cārissimus
  • φίλος, φιλότερος, φιλότατος
  • Sweet, sweeter, sweetest
  • suavis, suavior, suavissimus
  • ἡδύς, ἥδιος, ἥδιστος

I struggle here to explain the precise interrelations between the various forms above, because A&G are quite tight-lipped about the matter (everything in this post is drawn from two far-disparate footnotes). However, we see a certain kinship between:

  • the Latin comparative (n.) -ius [e.g. nigrior (m/f), nigrius (n)] and the Greek -ίων [e.g. μείων (smaller, less)]
  • the Latin superlative –issimus [suavissimus] and the Greek -ιστος [ἥδιστος]

(these ^^ are also both relative to the English superlative [e.g. sweetest])

  • the Latin positive –ter (ater, atra, atrum) and the Greek -τερος (φιλότερος)

I think that last one is a bit of a stretch, so don’t shoot the messenger (of AG 214bn), but shoot me a comment if you disagree either with their claim or with my reading of their claim, and explain why.

The Essential AG: 124n1, 214bn