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This page pertains to UD version 2.

Degree: degree

Values: Cmp Dim Equ Pos Abs

[Work in progress for Abs, Cmp]

Degree of comparison is typically an inflectional feature of adjectives (or adjectival forms like participles) and consequently of derived (and some “true”) adverbs, and also determiners or similar elements conveying a notion of quantity or intensity, but is not limited to them: also widespread are diminutive forms of nominals, including nouns, and possibly verbs.

Abs: absolute (traditionally “superlative”)

This value implies the highest degree of a given quality or other aspect. It can be made relative specifying the group for which it is considered the highest.


Sup: superlative

The PROIEL Latin treebank uses the traditional superlative tag for forms like pulchrissimum and plurimus.


This is consistent with the use in the other PROIEL treebanks and corresponds to the grammatical tradition. All forms of the Latin superlative have both absolute and relative uses (as documented above) and this should eventually be unified across the treebanks. (Alternatively, the annotation can be disambiguatuated, which will require substantial manual labor.)

Cmp: comparative

This value implies a difference between two elements under a given property.


Equ: equative (debatable)

This value might be considered for those adverbial elements introducing comparisons of equality, which often appear in correlative couples such as tantum … quantum ‘so much … as much’. It is not clear if this should have an autonomous annotation, or if it is just already included in the demonstrative value of similar elements. It is not used at the moment.


Dim: diminutive form of a word

A diminutive form denotes a smaller or under some aspect “lesser” version of what is referred to by the base word (the “primitive”), and is in this sense a kind of comparative, and therefore linked to the notion of degree. The diminutive may originally have, and in many cases maintain, a literal meaning (“smaller”), or often assume connotations of endearment (“nice”, “dear”) or also contempt (“less worthy”, “weaker”, “miserable”). We expect a diminutive form to appear associated to a word with lexical content, most often to a noun; thus, functional words like adpositions, pronouns, determiners and so on are usually excluded (as a diminutive does not make much sense for them). The part of speech is usually not affected by this derivation (without taking in account PROPN), but in case of nouns the gender sometimes changes. In some cases, the diminutive form of a modifier word may be understood as referred to its (possibly implicit) syntactic head rather than to the quality or else expressed by the modifier, and may be in “agreement” with its diminutive form, e.g. sicilicula argenteola ‘small silver sickle’ Plaut. Rud. 4.4.125, where the small sickle (sicilicula, NOUN) is no less of silver (argenteolus, from argenteus, ADJ) than a normal one (cf. Petersen, 1916).

Historically, many Latin cognomina, and consequently gentilicia, but also praenomina, are derived from the diminutive form of a (possibly lost) primitive, e.g. Aulus from auulus ‘little grandfather’, from auus ‘grandfather’ (see Chase, 1897).

What are traditionally labelled as “frequentative” (or “iterative”, or “intensive”) verbs can be also traced back to diminutive forms: they represent an action which is attenuated in quantity or quality (e.g. haesito ‘to be uncertain, to hesitate’ vs. haereo ‘to stick, to hold fast’), or an event that is subdivided in smaller events of similar kind (e.g. curso ‘to run to and fro (many times)’ vs. curro ‘to run (once, continuously)’), hence the iterative reading; and from the latter, sometimes an intensive reading (the sum of many actions as a greater action) becomes possible (cf. Audring et al., 2021). The annotation of the diminutive degree for verbs has however not yet been implemented in the Latin treebanks, as it deserves further investigations.


Pos: positive (possibly deprecated; see Note)

This value is traditionally used to denote the form of an adjectival element (or the corresponding adverb) which is neither comparative nor “superlative” (i.e. absolute in UD terms). It is however problematic as any definition “by negation”: a positive form is simply a form not marked for Degree, and as such no particular label should be needed, in a similar way that an indeclinable noun is not marked for case.

The general suggestion is thus to eschew the use of the label Pos, as it is not motivated on any real morpholexical ground, if not that to “fill a gap” in a perceivedly tripartite system.


Note: reasons against annotating Degree=Pos

The explicitation of a “positive degree” raises the problem of distinguishing, during annotation, between those words which admit, or better might admit, a comparative/absolute form, and those that do not, since the label of “positive” implies the other values, too. This distinction is however ultimately semantic/pragmatic and often unpredictable.

For example, all base forms of adjectives (ADJ) might be a priori labelled for Degree=Pos, but then, besides fortis ‘strong’, which can be naturally scaled as fortior ‘stronger’ and fortissimus ‘strongest’, there are terms of nationality such as romanus ‘Roman’ which are normally not, if ever, attested in the comparative or absolute degree: one either is romanus, or is not (cf. Stassen, 2003, §5). Similarly, an expression like viridissimus ‘greenest’ is not entirely transparent without context, i.e. with respect to how something can be said to achieve the highest degree of greenness (even if there might be e.g. different shades of green).

The contrast is even starker for adverbs (ADV): here a rather artificial intra-class distinction has to be made between adverbs derived from an adjectival basis, e.g. fortiter ‘strongly’ form fortis (ADJ), and those derived from other bases, e.g. partim ‘partly’ from pars (NOUN), or “proper” adverbs, e.g. palam ‘publicly’, but nothing prevents to observe particulatim (a diminutive form of partim, as particula is to pars), clanculum (diminutive form of clam ‘secretly’, with no identifiable primitive) or saepissime (absolute form of saepe ‘often’, from a reconstructed adjective saepis ‘frequent’, already archaic in Classical times and never attested in the positive form). On the same note, non-lexical parts of speech such as DET should logically never be assigned a positive degree, but then we observe ipsimus ‘most himself’ from ipse ‘(him)self’ (cf. Perseus phi0972.phi001.perseus-lat1.xml@769; giving then rise e.g. to it. medesimo ‘selfsame’, from metipsimus) and tuissimus ‘most your(s)’ from tuus ‘your(s)’ (cf. entry in Du Cange). It is however doubtful that, given similar possible occurrences, all DETs should be then marked with Degree=Pos: there is no added information in doing so, as there is not in marking all NOUNs (or ADJs, or any other part of speech) for it because they might assume a diminutive form. Similarly, a positive Polarity is not annotated in Latin.

Finally, there are classes of adjectives (e.g. those ending in -eus or -ius) that are not allowed to combine with comparative or absolute suffixes, and so for them the value Pos is not motivated, and even more so since they can nonethless be made to express a degree by means of auxiliary elements such as the adverbs magis ‘more’ and maxime ‘most’, themselves displaying a morphological degree.


Degree in other languages: [af] [bej] [bg] [cs] [cy] [el] [en] [es] [et] [fi] [ga] [grc] [gub] [hu] [hy] [it] [ka] [ky] [la] [pcm] [pt] [qpm] [quc] [ru] [sl] [sv] [tr] [tt] [u] [uk] [urj]