In the thirtieth class of the Latin from Scratch course, we’ll study the syntax and morphology of superlative adjectives.
I explain everything in the following video (⏳ 05m 50s ⌛):
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Syntactic structures of the superlative degree
In Latin we have two structures for the superlative degree of adjectives: the absolute superlative and the relative superlative.
The absolute superlative expresses a quality in a very high degree, higher than normal, and it requires no complements. We can translate it as “very + adjective“.
The relative superlative, on the other hand, expresses a quality in the highest degree possible within a group, so it requires a complement (in genitive, or with inter or apud + accusative, or e/ex or de + ablative). We can translate it as “the Xest / most X in + complement“.
Morphology of synthetic superlative adjectives
We form them with the following suffixes, depending on the root of the base adjective:
- -issimus, ‑a, ‑um (normally) → altissimus
- -rimus, ‑a, ‑um (nominative singular masculine in ‑er) → miserrimus
- -limus, ‑a, ‑um (nominative singular masculine in ‑lis) → facillimus
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Morphologically, both superlatives are the same, so the only way to know if we have an absolute or relative superlative is by the context, mostly by the presence or absence of the complement.
There are a few adjectives whose superlative form is irregular:
- bonus, bona, bonum → optimus, ‑a, ‑um
- malus, mala, malum → pessimus, ‑a, ‑um
- magnus, magna, magnum → maximus, ‑a, ‑um
- parvus, parva, parvum → minimus, ‑a, ‑um
- multus, multa, multum → plurimus, ‑a, ‑um
Before classical Latin, and also in authors such as Sallust, it is normal to find the suffix as ‑issumus, ‑a, ‑um (also maxumus, etc.).
Now that we know comparative and superlative adjectives, let’s go study the formation of adverbs from adjectives and their degrees.
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