Adverbial Superlative Forms Outside the Degree System: Lexical and Operational Units

Magdalena Danielewiczowa

Abstrakt

The article seeks to determine the status of adverbial superlative forms which do not express the superlative and which thus fall outside the degree system in contemporary Polish. Some of these expressions have become lexicalizedand have entered two classes of units: particles (e.g., najpewniej ‘surely’, najwidoczniej ‘apparently’, najwyraźniej ‘clearly’) and adverbial meta-predicates (e.g., najspokojniej ‘calmly’, najzwyczajniej ‘simply’, najlepiej ‘the best’). Others have become elements of idiomatic expressions or performatives such as, e.g. najmocniej przepraszam ‘I sincerely apologize’, najserdeczniej witam ‘I cordially welcome (you)’, najuprzejmiej dziękuję ‘I kindly thank (you)’, najgoręcej namawiam ‘I highly recommend’. However, there are also superlative forms which act as the domain of several interesting operations, see, e.g., Bogusławski (1978, 1987, 2010), the latter being of a grammatical, rather than lexical nature. One such operation results in the creation of expressions such as jak najszybciej ‘in the quickest possible way’, jak najweselej ‘in the most enjoyable way’, jak najdłużej ‘in the longest possible way’, etc.Another important operation yields such constructions as najpóźniej w środę ‘on Wednesday at the latest’, najdalej 20 kilometrów od centrum ‘at most 20 km away from the centre’,najrzadziej raz do roku ‘at least once a year’, najgrubiej na pół centymetra ‘half a centimeter at the thickest’, etc. Contrary to the view held by Grochowski (2008), it is argued here that the superlatives which occur in these constructions should not be regarded as independent lexical units. Nor should the metatextual comments such as najkrócej ‘to put it briefly / briefly put [lit. most briefly]’, najogólniej ‘most generally ’ be regarded as such, though for a different reason. In these comments, the superlatives – referring to the act of speaking – retain their standard meanings (cf. krótko / krócej succinctly/more succinctly’, ogólnie / ogólniej ‘generally/more generally ’). A number of pragmatic effects associated with the use of superlative forms also deserve individual treatment; they include, for instance, metonymic shortcuts (najlepsi ‘the best’ [pl.], najbogatsi ‘the richest’ [pl.])’ or conversational implicatures (wypadł nie najgorzej wypadł całkiem dobrze ‘he did not do so badly / he did not do so bad’ → ‘he did pretty well’).

Słowa kluczowe: Polish adverbs, comparison, superlative, comparative constructions, grammatical categories, lexical units, operational units

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