Adjective comparison in African varieties of English

Keywords: African Englishes, morphosyntactic variation, comparative alternation, language complexity, web language


Adjectives in English can express the comparative in two ways, either synthetically, with the addition of the suffix -er (e.g. nicer), or analytically, with the adverb more preceding the adjective (e.g. more outstanding). With some adjectives, the two forms coexist (e.g. cleverer and more clever). While traditional grammars state that length (measured in number of syllables) is the main determinant for comparative variation (Quirk et al. 1985; Biber et al. 1999; Huddleston and Pullum 2002), more recent and focused studies (Mondorf 2003, 2007, 2009; Hilpert 2008) show that the distribution of English comparative forms is conditioned by more than the number of syllables, establishing a more complex set of factors to account for this alternation. The aim of the current paper is to assess the main factors that underlie comparative alternation through an in-depth analysis of the presence of synthetic and analytic forms in a set of adjectives taken from five African varieties of English (South African, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Kenyan, and Tanzanian English). In line with contemporary studies (Mondorf 2003), the results ascertain that comparative alternation is primarily governed by intra-linguistic factors, predominantly of morphosyntactic, semantic and phonological nature. Additionally, the impact of other commonly-cited factors, such as learner effects and L1 influence, which are expected to reinforce the observed tendency towards analyticization, is also explored.


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How to Cite
Suárez-Gómez, C., & Tomàs-Vidal, C. (2024). Adjective comparison in African varieties of English. Research in Corpus Linguistics, 12(1), 89–113.