#3618. Johnson による比較級・最上級の作り方の規則[johnson][dictionary][prescriptive_grammar][comparison][superlative][adjective][suffix][lexical_diffusion]


 1755年の Johnson の辞書の序文に "Grammar of the English Tongue" と題する英文法記述の章がある.そこで形容詞の比較についてもスペースが割かれているが,-er/-est 比較か more/most 比較かという使い分けの問題は,当時も規則に落とし込むのが難しい問題だったようだ.Johnson なりの整理の仕方を見てみよう.

          The Comparison of Adjectives.

   The comparative degree of adjectives is formed by adding er, the superlative by adding est, to the positive; as, fair, fairer, fairest; lovely, lovelier, loveliest; sweet, sweeter, sweetest; low, lower, lowest; high, higher, highest.
   Some words are irregularly compared; as good, better, best; bad, worse, worst; little, less, least; near, nearer, next; much, more, most; many (or moe), more for moer), most (for moest); late, latter, latest or last.
   Some comparatives form a superlative by adding most, as nether, nethermost; outer, outmost; under, undermost; up, upper, uppermost; fore, former, foremost.
   Many adjectives do not admit of comparison by terminations, and are only compared by more and most, as benevolent, more benevolent, most benevolent.
   All adjectives may be compared by more and most, even when they have comparatives and superlatives regularly formed; as fair; fairer, or more fair; fairest, or most fair.
   In adjectives that admit a regular comparison, the comparative more is oftener used than the superlative most, as more fair is oftener written for fairer, than most fair for fairest.
   The comparison of adjectives is very uncertain; and being much regulated by commodiousness of utterance, or agreeableness of sound, is not easily reduced to rules.
   Monosyllables are commonly compared.
   Polysyllables, or words of more than two syllables, are seldom compared otherwise than by more and most, as deplorable, more deplorable, most deplorable.
   Disyllables are seldom compared if they terminate in some, as fulsome, toilsome; in ful, as careful, spleenful, dreadful; in ing, as trifling, charming; in ous, as porous; in less, as careless, harmless; in ed, as wretched; in id, as candid; in al, as mortal; in ent, as recent, fervent; in ain, as certain; in ive, as missive; in dy, as woody; in fy, as puffy; in ky, as rocky, except lucky; in my, as roomy; in ny, as skinny; in py, as ropy, except happy; in ry, as hoary.

 Johnson はこのように整理した上で,なおこれらの規則に沿わない例も散見されるとして,Milton や Ben Jonson からの実例を挙げている.
 それでも上に引用した記述には,興味深い点が多々含まれている.たとえば,位置・方角を表わす語では most が接尾辞として付加されるというのは語源的におもしろい (ex. nethermost, outmost, undermost, uppermost, foremost) .outer については「#3616. 語幹母音短化タイプの比較級に由来する latter, last, utter」 ([2019-03-22-1]) を参照.また,foremost については「#1307. mostmest」 ([2012-11-24-1]) を参照.
 加えて,句比較を許す形容詞について most を用いる最上級よりも more を用いる比較級のほうが高頻度だというのも興味深い指摘だ.比較級と最上級ではそもそも傾向が異なるかもしれないという視点は,示唆に富む.
 Milton の時代には許された virtuousest, famousest, pow'rfullest などが Johnson (の時代)では許容されなくなっているという点も見逃せない.Johnson がすでに現代的な感覚をもっていたことになるからだ.使い分けの細部を除けば,Johnson の時代までに現代の分布の大枠はできあがっていたと考えてよさそうだ.
 一方,そのような「細部」の1点について,Lass が指摘していることも示唆的である.Lass (157) は,Johnson では許容されていない woody, puffy, rocky, roomy などの屈折比較が現在では許容されている事実を考えると,当時から現代までに屈折比較の適用範囲が拡大してきた可能性があると述べている.もしそうならば,一種の語彙拡散 (lexical_diffusion) の例としてみることもできるだろう.

 ・ Lass, Roger. "Phonology and Morphology." 1476--1776. Vol. 3 of The Cambridge History of the English Language. Ed. Roger Lass. Cambridge: CUP, 1999. 56--186.

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