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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Feb 27th, 2009, 06:22 pm
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Default More dull or duller?

Hi,

I am confused...which one is correct?

He is duller than I/more dull than I

Thank you in advance for your help.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Feb 28th, 2009, 02:52 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

Duller : The general rule is that one syllable adjectives take -er (though there are cases where more is also used). So duller. In this case it seems pretty definitive. I fed both into the Cobuild Concordancer and got no examples at all of more dull, but lots of duller. Here are a few :

a)... The female has duller, brown plumage, and tends to skulk in the
b)... lost their nerve and gave the job to safer duller architects" is inaccurate.
c)... the original Ford Escort, which had a much duller image than it does today.
d)... about rugby have grown correspondingly duller
e).... on my evening visit I found the Poissonnerie even duller.
f)... few of us could find anyone duller than the prissy John Gummer MP -
g)...when you just look at it but it is actually a duller white.
h)...they are so much more noticeable during the duller months of the year.

There are a couple of other interesting things about this sentence, and I hope you don't mind if I refer to them.

Dull : Notice that dull here has a range of meanings from "not a bright colour" (a, g and h) to "boring" (the others). These meanings often overlap, as possibly in (a) or (h).

However, referring to a person it can also mean unintelligent, and your sentence is therefore ambiguous - are you saying that he's boring or that he's stupid? For this reason, dull is often avoided when we mean boring, unless the context makes the meaning clear - as in example (f).

than I : This form is possible, but unusual. The use of the subject pronoun after than is generally considered a mark of formal style, and to me sounds archaic. In everyday speech we would either add the operator*, or use the object pronoun. So : He is duller than I am or He is duller than me.

In fact, I'd say the construction with the subject pronoun is virtually non-existent. Again, the concordancer brought up no examples at all, and invented ones -like : She can swim better than he or We work harder than they . - sound very odd. They would normally be :
- with the object pronoun : She can swim better than him, We work harder than them .
-with the operator : She can swim better than he can or We work harder than they do .

* the operator is the verb in the phrase which would be used to make questions, negatives etc

Hope that helps.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Feb 28th, 2009, 09:28 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

In my example I wanted to say that 'he is more boring than me'. I didn't know it also means unintelligent.

Thank you very much for your help!
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 8th, 2009, 10:14 pm
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

Yeah dull is definitely a peculiar case.

My students have been making a list of two syllable adjectives for our weekly English coffee time. I found some interesting ones too:

common, commoner, commonest

or

common, more common, most common

stupid, stupider, stupidest

or
stupid, more stupid, most stupid

Are all of them right?
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Unread Mar 9th, 2009, 05:51 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

Yes - two syllable adjectives are nearly always "flexible", in that they can form the comparative/superlative with either -er/-est or more/most. That goes too, incidentally, for adjectives ending in "y", which textbooks will tell you "always" become -ier/-iest. Not true. Here are some examples found on the Collins concordancer :

... it doesn't make you any more happy,
Conservatives on the opposite wing are no more happy.
`I'm feeling healthier, more happy with myself and just in general," she said. `
...he found women hard to fathom and was more happy in the company of men.
But there's other things that I'm more happy about--
In Ulster I met the most friendly, hospitable people in the world, but I also
... impressive and important. We parted in most friendly courteous fashion.
... for this must be one of the most friendly places on earth -
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Unread Mar 9th, 2009, 07:53 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

Confusing indeed.
The words friendly and lively came up the day we were studying adverbs eventhough we had already studied them as adjectives. The naughtiest in my class said friendlily...
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  #7 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 9th, 2009, 12:46 pm
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

You'll hate me for this, but look what I found on the concordancer :

It was said, you know, rather loosely and friendlily as I often say many things.

Which just goes to show how the language system is just a vehicle for expressing meaning, and it's then up to the individual to decide what meaning s/he wants to express.
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Unread Mar 10th, 2009, 06:37 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

Oh noooooooo
Jeez!
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  #9 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 10th, 2009, 11:11 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

Quote:
Quote susan53 View Post
You'll hate me for this, but look what I found on the concordancer :

It was said, you know, rather loosely and friendlily as I often say many things.
I can totally see being forced into making 'friendlily'. it happens all the time. Well not all the time, but sometimes you're forced to make those strange words because of ealier choices.
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Unread Mar 10th, 2009, 09:49 pm
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

Shouldn't we replace friendlily and livelily with 'in a friendly way' and 'in a lively way'?
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Unread Mar 11th, 2009, 08:13 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

No - why? It follows the rules of adverb formation and is fully comprehensible. The fact that it's unusual is irrelevant. That's how language changes - someone starts using a word or a form in an unusual way, it catches on and bingo. If this hadn't happened in continuation we'd all still be talking like Chaucer. (Well actually we'd all still be grunting like stone age cavemen, but never mind ...)

I think that's what's happening with the comparative too. Gradually the -er/-est endings are being replaced by more/most. English hates endings - we got rid of the noun endings ages ago, and all verb endings except the 3rd person -s by several hundred years ago. So why not adjective endings too? At the moment we're in a transitional stage, and with a lot of one syllable adjectives, and nearly all two syllable adjectives you currently find both. Here are some examples of more/most with one syllable adjectives :

... and this is even more true when you are ill.
... that if I told anyone, it would make it more real.
Hailed as the `most real, meatiest, heaviest metal album of 1994" by ...
... minimum sentences making drug laws more fair or just more severe?
the city is a lot more quiet and a lot more calm than it has been

When one syllable adjectives make up the first part of a compound adjective, the "flexibility" - ie the ability to form the comparative in either way, is even more obvious :

.. the opposition party's widest-ranging policy review
... the reforms, which are generally agreed to be the most wide ranging and fundamental since ..
at a time when they are most hard pressed at work
Often the World Bank and the IMF have required the hardest pressed countries to adopt
until a more long term solution is found
a fundamental error which will exact an even greater toll without a longer term policy

and look at the two-syllable words :

... it is very rare in infants and becomes much commoner in the middle and older age groups.
Skin cancer in Britain is becoming more common ...
The alley grew narrower and then ...
The longer the lens, you use, the more narrow the angle of view...
and breathing often becomes more shallow and rapid.
This branch canyon was much shallower than Many Ruins
...it seems even more stupid now.
It gets stupider still.
the city is a lot more quiet and a lot more calm than it has been.
She was much quieter...

I'm willing to bet that in a couple of hundred years the -er/-est endings will seem archaic.

It's a pity I won't be able to collect my winnings, she concluded - smiling friendlily.
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  #12 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 11th, 2009, 10:20 am
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Default Re: More dull or duller?

This is very interesting Susan.
I am going to revise some of my lessons.
I wish some of the writers of text books we use knew about this.
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