Variation in the Productivity of Adjective Comparison in Present-Day English
This chapter explores intra- and extra-linguistic variation and change in the productivity of adjective comparison in present-day spoken English (BNC1994 and BNC2014). While some intra-linguistic factors seem to have an impact on the productivity of the periphrastic comparative strategy, the overall picture is that of stability in its productivity over time and across social categories. By contrast, the inflectional strategy appears to have become significantly more productive in the recent history of British English, and some of this change is clearly influenced by extra-linguistic factors such as gender and social class. Similar sociolinguistic variation has recently been found in the productivity of derivational morphology, supporting the hypothesis of a cline between derivation and inflection rather than a sharp divide. The present work therefore has implications for the study of synthetic vs. analytic trends in English (which has often excluded derivation): in line with previous morphological research, the results provide further empirical evidence to suggest that derivation should be viewed as contributing to syntheticity alongside inflection.