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

The Vocative Case: Declension

A&G define the vocative as “the case of Direct Address.” (35f)

Generally speaking, the vocative and the nominative are the same.

However, in certain nouns of the second declension (those with nominative -us or -ius) have two exceptional variations. All nouns in -us feature an -e in the vocative (mūrus…mūre). Those ending in -ius (Vergilius, fīlius, genius, etc.) take a vocative  (Vergilī, filī, genī).

  • [Highly attentive readers should note that this vocative does not shift its accent, rendering Vergílī, and not *Vérgilī, as one might expect.]

That’s how it stands for nouns. There’s a slight variation in policy for adjectives, though luckily the same general rule (same as the nominative) holds true for all but the second declension (bonus…bone). However, the one catch is that adjectives ending in -ius change to -ie and not . Therefore, when calling to a Spartan son, we might say O fīlī Lacedaemonie! (not *Lacedaemonī).

If anyone has a better understanding of vocative plurals, which I assume are all identical to their nominative forms, feel free to say more in the comments below. A&G are totally silent on this issue, which I assume signals that listing the vocatives would be redundant (with respect to the nominatives).

The Essential AG: 38a

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

Plural Defective Nouns

Nouns with Plural Defects

Unicase Plural Defective Nouns

A normal noun declines into twelve cases, six in each number. With certain nouns, less than all 12 cases are used by ancient Latin authors.

The following nouns are regular, yet never appear in the genitive plural in any extant Latin text.

Third Declension : Feminine

  • calx, calcis : chalk; limestone; heel
  • cōs, cōtis : whetstone
  • crux, crucis : cross
  • fax, facis : torch; comet; cause of ruin
  • faex, faecis : brine; dregs
  • lanx, lancis : dish; platter; plate
  • lūx, lūcis : light
  • nex, necis : death; slaughter
  • pāx, pācis : peace
  • pix, picis: pitch; tar

Third Declension Masculine

  • rōs, rōris : dew, moisture
  • sāl, sālis : salt; wit
  • sōl, sōlis : sun
  • vas, vadis : bail; surety

Third Declension Neuter

  • cor, cordis : heart; mind;soul
  • ōs, ōris : mouth; face; speech; opening
  • os, ossis : bone

Tricase Plural Defective Nouns

The following nouns are regular, yet never appear in the genitive, dative or ablative plural in any extant Latin text.

Second Declension Neuter

  • hordeum, hordeī or ordeum, ordeī : barley

Thid Declension Neuter

  • fel, fellis : gall; bile; gall bladder; poison; venom
  • far, farris : grits
  • iūs, iūris : law; right; duty; gravy; sauce; broth
  • mel, mellis : honey, sweet one (term of endearment)
  • murmur, murmuris : murmur; rushing; crash
  • pūs, pūris : pus; foul matter
  • rūs, rūris : countryside; farm; village
  • tūs, tūris or thūs, thūris : incense

Fifth Declension Plural Defects

“Most nouns of the fifth declension want the whole or part of the plural” (AG 103.3)

The Essential AG: 103 g 1-2

Famous Phrase : amor et melle et felle est fecundissimus (love is most rich in honey and gall)

[Plautus, Cistellaria]