Why "worser" is better: The double comparative in 16th and 17th century English

Author(s): Schlüter, Julia  
Title of the Journal: Language Variation and Change
ISSN: 0954-3945, 1469-8021
Publisher Information: Cambridge : Cambridge University Press
Year of publication: 2001
Volume: 13
Issue: 2
Pages: 193–208
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.1017/s0954394501132047
In Early Modern English, double comparatives were often encountered in both spoken and written language. The present article investigates the redundantly marked comparative "worser" in relation to its irregular, but etymologically justified, counterpart "worse". My aim is to examine the diachronic development of the form as well as its distribution in the written language of the 16th and 17th centuries. Two detailed corpus studies are used to reveal the set of parameters underlying the variation between "worse" and "worser", which include system congruity, semantics, and standardization effects. However, the focus here is on the tendency to maintain an alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables, known as the Principle of Rhythmic Alternation. This prosodic principle (which has been argued to be particularly influential in English) turns out to be responsible for most of the results obtained in the analysis of the corpus data.
GND Keywords: Frühneuenglisch; Prosodie
Keywords: worse, worser, rhythmic alternation, Early Modern English, double comparative
DDC Classification: 420 English  
RVK Classification: HF 450   
Peer Reviewed: Ja
International Distribution: Ja
Type: Article
URI: https://fis.uni-bamberg.de/handle/uniba/49672
Release Date: 18. March 2021