Icelandic: lengur, lengra and comparison of adverbs

Discussion in 'Nordic Languages' started by Kadabrium, Sep 13, 2013.

  1. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    I´m familiar with the use of the adverb lengur as the comparative of lengi (in time), but have also incorrectly assumed that it´s also the comparative of langt (in space), confusing it with Norwegian in which both adverbs apprently can use lenger.

    So if an adverb is directly derived from a neuter adjective, is it safe to assume its comparative adverb will also be the same as the neuter comparative adjective (with final -a dropped if it is thematic)?
    If not, can anyone list the exceptions?
  2. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Hi Kadabrium,

    I can't give an authoritative answer, but it looks as though there are at least some adverbs derived from neuter sg. adjectives, that take an adverbial comparative form more commonly than the neuter sg. comparative adjective.

    For example, sofa fast means "to sleep soundly" according to my dictionary, where fast is the neuter sg. of fastur. Online, I found a few examples of sofa/svaf fastara (comparative neut. sg.), but sofa/svaf fastar (adverbial comparative) seems more common.

    As far as the word langt, I'm not sure that it should be considered an adverb in contexts like hlaupa langt "to run a long distance" -- instead, langt can be treated as a noun or a substantive adjective, meaning "a long (distance)", in which case its comparative would always appear in the form lengra.

    Hopefully the above was clear. I'm sure that other posters will have more to say on this.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2013
  3. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Langt as in hlaupa langt is an adverb ( It certainly can not be treated as a noun, nouns can't have comparative and superlative forms. Sofa fastara looks like a mistake to me, it should definitely be sofa fast/fastar/fastast. All adverbs take an adverbial comparative... They're a different class of words than adjectives so their comparative form is by very definition adverbial.

    This sounds right to me... No exceptions are coming to mind. But perhaps there are some? Sometimes it seems that dropping that a is optional, though. According to beygingarlýsing íslensks nútímamáls, hratt can be hraðar or hraðara and hart can be harðar or harðara. However, I've personally never seen those forms used, I would strongly suppose that they are far less common.
  4. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    I just meant the unique adverbial form ending in -(a)r, as opposed to -ra (identical to the neut. nom. sg. comparative).

    What do you and Kadabrium mean by dropping the -a?
  5. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Like the neuter nominative form of fastur is fast, and that's the same as the adverb fast. The comparative form of that adjective is fastara, which is the same as the comparative form of the adverb fastar except with an a on the end. That's the a we are talking about, the one you drop to get the adverb, purely in terms of spelling.

    To compare, the neuter nominative form of langur is langt, and that's the same as the adverb langt. The comparative form of that adjective is lengra, which is exactly the same as the comparative form of the adverb, lengra. You don't drop that a to get the adverb.

    Another thing: there are exceptions! I remembered. There are some adverbs that come from the neuter nom. adjective (and indeed some that have the classic -lega ending) that don't even have comparative and superlative forms, e.g. strangt.
  6. Kadabrium Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    But obviously even lengur is just lengra without the a.
    Can you think of any other instances where an adverb has different meanings depending on whether or not it drops this a?
  7. Silver_Biscuit

    Silver_Biscuit Senior Member

    English - UK
    Is that obvious? I don't think so. I don't think that lengi - lengur - lengst should be tangled up in this at all, since lengi is not an adverb directly derived from an adjective. Of course lengi and langur are semantically related, but it's not the same relationship as between langur (adj) and langt (adv).

    The difference in meaning between lengi and langt has nothing to do with any a.
  8. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Kabadrium said "... (with final -a dropped if it is thematic)" -- what does thematic mean in this case?

    The adverb vært (as in sofa vært "to sleep calmly") also lacks a comparative or superlative according to the BIN database, but I found a couple of examples of sofa værar online, one from a recent newspaper article.

    Would you say that adverbial -ar is not considered a productive suffix by Icelandic grammarians, similarly to how the comparative suffix -er is not seen as productive in English (even though people do sometimes form new words with it)?

Share This Page