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When entering Danish lexemes into Wikidata, I have been unsure which grammatical features one should assign to the Danish superlative forms "-st" and "-ste" for adjectives, e.g., in bedst and bedste. The question is whether/how they relates to grammatical number (singular/plural) and definiteness (definite/indefinite) or any other grammatical feature.

I now see that English Wiktionary regard the -st form as "predicative" and the -ste form as "attributive", e.g., at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/stor#Danish. From this information, neither the grammatical number nor the definiteness are characteristics of the forms.

Is the English Wiktionary correct in stating that the grammatical feature for superlative forms of adjectives should be set to either "attributive" or "predicative" or are there any subtleties I am missing? I cannot come up with any exceptions.

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  • Why are you concerned particularly about superlative? the bedst*/*bedste distinction is exactly parallel to stor*/*store or any other adjective (excepting comparative ones of course) Feb 18, 2020 at 15:43
  • I would say the the distinction between stor/store and størst/største (or god/gode vs bedst/bedste) is different! The first is related to definiteness and grammatical number while the second seems not (en stor mand, den store mand, manden er stor, en mand er stor, *manden er store, *en størst mand, den største mand, manden er størst, *manden er største). Feb 18, 2020 at 16:17

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Your confusion seems to be coming from the fact that it's unidiomatic for superlative adjectives to be attributive to indefinite nouns. This is the same in English.

*a greatest man

*en størst mand

In all other cases (excepting lille, I think, and probably a few other irregulars), an -e is suffixed to adjectives if one of the following hold:

  • specific
  • plural
  • vocative
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    There are certain constructs with attributive(-like?) superlative adjectives, e.g., "Arresø der har en største dybde på 5,9 meter...", "...køretøjer med en største tilladt totalvægt...", "...men ligefrem at have en største fan". Here the grammatical features seem to be singular, indefinite and attributive. Feb 18, 2020 at 17:16
  • @Finn you are right. Its not definiteness that matters here, but specificity. In Danish, definiteness implies specificity, but not the other way round. Feb 18, 2020 at 17:39
  • Also, all your examples are specific and also vocative implies specific. Feb 18, 2020 at 17:43
  • But specificity seems not carry over to predicative expressions, e.g., "Peter er størst" vs. "*Peter er største" and "den mand er størst" vs "*den mand er største". Feb 18, 2020 at 17:53
  • @FinnÅrupNielsen That's exactly right. Specificity is a category that's local to the NP, unlike plurality which can affect verb conjugations etc. Predications are thus unaffected. Feb 18, 2020 at 21:53
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Det Centrale Ordregister (COR, The Danish Central Word Registry) published by Dansk Sprognævn at https://ordregister.dk/ now has the grammatical features indicated. For 'stor' the entries for the superlative adjective forms in COR 1.0 are:

COR.15602.305.01        stor            adj.superl.sg.ubest     størst  1
COR.15602.306.01        stor            adj.superl.sg.best      største 1
COR.15602.307.01        stor            adj.superl.pl   største 1

So -st is singular indefinite and -ste is either singular definite or plural.

However, I am somewhat struggling to conform to this scheme. To me:

  • De er størst. (plural but -st)
  • ?De er største.

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