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The class of words called 'words of comparison' includes words such as 'higher' and 'highest'. The words 'higher' and 'highest' express comparative height. The term for the class of words that includes 'higher' is 'the comparative'. The term for the class of words that includes 'highest' is 'the superlative'.

Is there a linguistic term that denotes the class of properties that words of comparison compare?

I'd appreciate whatever answers people can offer, but I'd prefer answers that include a completion one of these two similes.

  • The word 'higher' and the word 'highest' are to the word 'height' as the phrase 'the comparative' and the phrase 'the superlative' are to '_____'.

  • The word 'higher' and the word 'highest' are to the property called 'height' as the phrase 'the comparative' and the phrase 'the superlative' are to _____.

Thank you,

-Hal

  • Note: The question A generic noun for something being compared? (english.stackexchange.com/questions/27047/…) does not ask the same question that I've asked. – Hal Feb 26 '15 at 15:55
  • I'd just call them qualities or attributes. Or measures to refer just to qualities that are measurable and comparable. – Barmar Feb 26 '15 at 15:55
  • @Barmar Thanks for the reply. I'm writing a philosophy paper about properties. I've tried a few versions of phrases like "qualities that are comparable". They all had problems. 'Qualities' doesn't distinguish between qualities in general and 'comparable qualities'. 'Comparable qualities' doesn't express that the comparison is a comparison of the degree of exhibition of a quality. Phrases like 'comparison of the degree of exhibition of a quality' are abstruse. Hence, my predicament. – Hal Feb 26 '15 at 16:05
  • They're not really related directly. Higher and highest are related by inflection (not derivation) to the positive degree adjective high, which is the root. High, an adjective, is also related to height, a noun, by abstract nominalization, which is derivation (not inflection). So there is no neat proportion, alas. You hafta look at the details. – John Lawler Feb 26 '15 at 16:10
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    And if you're writing a philosophy paper, I highly recommend Frawley's Linguistic Semantics (Erlbaum 1992). Here's a question list and a chapter outline for Entities (aka "nouns") from my old lexical semantics class. – John Lawler Feb 26 '15 at 16:18
5

Attributes that can be placed on a cline (linguistics: a scale of continuous gradation; continuum) can be "quantified" using gradable adjectives (cold, colder, coldest, very cold, a bit cold, too cold).

Correspondingly, those attributes that aren't normally quantified in this way are identified using "non-gradable" adjectives (married, freezing, dead). I therefore think it's quite reasonable to call these non-gradable attributes.

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