American Journal of Linguistics

p-ISSN: 2326-0750    e-ISSN: 2326-0769

2017;  5(2): 23-31



The Evolution Trend of Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in Persian from Eighth Century up to Now and Its Comparison with Previous Periods

Abas Ali Vafai, Ahmad Sobhani Dargah

University Allameh Tababaie, Tehran

Correspondence to: Abas Ali Vafai, University Allameh Tababaie, Tehran.


Copyright © 2017 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).


This research aims to investigate the evolution of comparative and superlative adjectives in Persian. In Persian literature, adjective is a word, phrase or sentence that follows the noun or its substitutes to describe it or add anything to its concept. When grading adjectives, they are divided into positive, comparative and superlative. The research question is that how the comparative and superlative adjectives have evolved in Persian literature from the eighth century onwards compared to earlier periods. The research findings collected using descriptive method and library studies indicate that comparative adjective with its complement have been considered as musnad (attribute or predicate), adverb, object and subject from the eighth century onwards and have been evolved. However, use of superlative adjective has been decreased and it has sometimes been appeared after musuf (a noun which is described), namely as vaabaste pasin (these are placed after head word) with descriptive function. Superlative adjectives are made with “ist” and “tum/dum” suffixes that are rare in Persian and have been abandoned form the domain of language.

Keywords: Evolution of Adjective, Comparative Adjective, Superlative Adjective, Application, Structure

Cite this paper: Abas Ali Vafai, Ahmad Sobhani Dargah, The Evolution Trend of Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in Persian from Eighth Century up to Now and Its Comparison with Previous Periods, American Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 5 No. 2, 2017, pp. 23-31. doi: 10.5923/j.linguistics.20170502.01.

1. Introduction

Adjective literally means describing, praising and stating how someone or something is; it comes with various meanings in dictionaries and encyclopedias as follows: in Dehkhoda Dictionary: sefat (adjective). [se fa] (aiyn mas), in Arabic as “sefi” and in Persian as “sefat”; it means how someone is and it is derived from description; expressing something condition, state and sign. In Moin Encyclopedic Dictionary: (se fa) [aiyn. Sefi] 1. (mas mim) stating how someone or something is. 2. To praise 3. (e mas). Expressing state 4. Status, condition, manner. 5. (e.) nature, essence. 6. Mood. 7. A word added to a noun to express its state and condition, plural form: sefat (adjectives).
In Amid Dictionary: (noun) [Arabic: sefi, sefaat] [sefat]. (literary) in grammar, a word that expresses the state, condition, quantity or number of nouns, mood. In literary terms, adjective is a word that is preceded or followed by a noun and explains one of its characteristics (state, color, smell, shape, size, etc.) (Abolghasemi, 2010: 64). A noun which is described by an adjective is called musuf (Shafiei Kadkani, 2008: 164).
In Persian wording arrangement, an adjective is preceded and also followed by a noun; when musuf precedes a noun, it appears with grammatical form of ezafe, and kasra-ezafe (-e) is added to last letter of musuf such as divar-e boland (tall wall). Another point is that “Adjective is one of the slippery categories in grammar, because its function is changed by changing structure of a sentence.” (Dehrami, 2015: 29). For example, if an adjective is substituted by musuf, or if it takes plural sign, its function will be changed and it will be regarded as a noun. It sometimes appears in adverb form: mardane kar kon (work manfully) / kari mardane kon (do a manful work). Therefore, it is said that this type of word is not always considered as adjective. In this regard, sometimes, there are disagreements on determining type of word, between adjectives and other categories in Persian dictionaries (Karimi Doustan, 2007: 188). It sometimes leads to emergence of types of adjectives graded as positive, comparative and superlative adjectives.
When defining comparative adjective, it is said that “tar” (er/more) is added to the end of an adjective. It is preference of musuf to another one with the same attribute and feature. It is added to the end of adjectives and words with the meaning of an adjective; such as guyandetar (more rational), shetabandetar (more accelerated), fazayandetar (more increased), mardtar (more courageous), bartar (superior).
Comparative adjectives are applied by the following three ways: 1. By the help of “az” (from): xerad az mal sudmandtar ast (wisdom is more profitable than property). 2. By the help of “ke” (from): danesh behtar ke mal (knowledge is better than property); sirat pasandidetar ke sourat (morality is more admirable than appearance). 3. By the help of “ezafe” (-e): tavanatar-e mardom kasi hast ke danayi ou fozuntar bashad (the more powerful person is one who is more knowledgeable) (Shamisa, 2007: 109). Superlative adjective is achieved by adding “in” (est/most) to end of comparative adjective in Persian; for example, bozorgtarin shoaraye Iran, Ferdowsi ast (Ferdowsi is one of the greatest poets in Iran).
Sometimes, in order to create superlative adjectives, “in” (est/most) is added to the end of words such as meh (greater), beh (better), and keh (smaller) which are comparative adjectives: mehin (greatest), behin (best), kehin (smallest). When “in” is added to the end of comparative adjectives, they will be changed to superlative ones such as kamtarin (least), fazeltarin (the most knowledgeable). In this case, if superlative adjective is added to the word after it, it should be used in plural form; for example, bozorgtarin-e mardan va fazeltarin-e rejal emruz oust (he is one of the contemporary greatest and more knowledgeable men), without ezafe, it should be applied singular: tavanatarin mard (more powerful man), binatarin shagerd (the cleverest student) (Anvari & Givi, 2010: 138). Study of comparative and superlative adjectives in Persian poem and prose indicates that in addition to the common perspective about grammatical categories, the frequency of using these two types of adjectives differs based on political, social and cultural conditions and due to artistic and aesthetic point of view, which is discussed in this research.

2. Review of Related Literature

Less research have been conducted on what an adjective is and how it is used in Persian language. For example, Persian grammar books can be mentioned which often have a short and concise chapter on this topic. Among the research conducted, “Persian Historical Grammar” by Parviz Khanlari (1998), “Persian Grammar 2” by Hasan Anvari & Ahmad Givi (2003), “Persian Grammar) by Taghi Vahidian Kamyar (2007), “Persian Historical Grammar” by Mohsen Abolghasemi (2010), and “Modern Detailed Grammar” by Khosrow Farshidvard (2009) are the most important sources which have dealt with adjective and its types. Among the comparative research conducted on adjectives, some articles can be considered significant as follows: “New Analysis on Adjectives’ Building in Persian Language According to 1. (compound noun + adjective) 2. Ta tanith (feminine sign)” (Majd, 2012), “Comparing Adjective in Persian and Arabic Languages” (Najarian, 2013), and “Artistic Functions of Adjective in Creating Literary Language, Illustration and the Quality of Emotion and Thought in Shamloo Poems” (Dehrami, 2015). In other studies, adjective has been investigated with more detailed consideration.

3. Evolution Trend of Comparative Adjective in Persian

1. Application of comparative adjective "به" instead of "better"-in this period as the earlier ones, using "" instead of "better" has high frequency. This is typically relates to literary and rhetorical types of writing.
2. Application of complement of comparative adjective in this period is more significant than the previous periods, though in the previous its frequency was high in Persian prose and poems.
3. Sometimes complement of comparative adjective is removed in symmetric which is called non-mentioned complement. This application is seen in both normal and rhetoric writings.
Fore example: By studding more, modern technology can be achieved. In fact: By studying more than before (before: complement of comparative adjective).
Examples of related works
*Examples of earlier periods
The unbelievers there were more evil and powerful (Beyhaghi, p.114)
Because Ayeshe ... heard the words of the Prophet, became more nostalgic (Tabari, p. 1142)
The analogy is more deserving closer to wisdom (Sobhani, p.43)
At the end of forty days, mosquito became bigger (Anbia, p.58)
Brightness seems more beautiful than ever (Kalile)
4. In the period under study, sometimes complement of comparative adjectives takes "to" instead of "from". This transformation takes place when comparative adjective represents predicate role.
*Examples of work under study
*Examples of earlier periods
5. Sometimes comparative adjective comes with "the more". This application is not frequent as the earlier periods. This usage mostly is found in Persian prose and is of low frequency in poetry.
*Examples of the works under study
*Examples of previous periods
With the more joyfulness he made a cry (Kalileh va Demneh)
And their dominance over the property and the people of the country, it was decided to destroy it the more (Kalile va Demneh)
Because mice did testifying … the ruler ordered the wildlife and animals gather for greater retribution and murder as harder (Marzbannameh)
After contemplation in a complete manner I will express the more softer and humble of words and the more comprehensive sayings (Kalile and Demneh)
Give the more innocence as possible (Monajat nameh)
And the more disturbance occurred in religion (Asrar Tohid)
6. Sometimes comparative adjective along with complement itself takes the form of explanatory noun clause. Application of this method was more frequent than the previous periods. Example:
Mother who is better than ego, found out this from my face an said. (is better than ego: is noun clause).
*An example of the work under study
*Example of previous periods
7. Sometimes comparative adjective along with its complement, creates some combinations that have a metaphoric application; fore example: More catholic than the pope, more stringent than the beggar, more scary than the death, finer than flower, longer than the day of doom, longer than hand…
8. Sometimes complement of comparative adjective takes "از" instead of "که". Its frequency both in earlier periods and the period under study was high.
To deter a guest is much more better than to welcome a bad guest:
*Examples of previous periods
To eat your own body meat is better than to drink wine of others (Maghamat-e-hamidi)
Very little recognition and appreciation is better than lots of non-recognition and non-appreciation.
9. Sometimes complement of comparative adjective precedes comparative adjective. This precedence and latency in normal writings is found frequently.
He is is more interested in gaining knowledge. (Gaining knowledge: complement of comparative adjective)
*Example of the work under study
I am the most beautiful of all/ yes the most beautiful of all on the soil/ and the most beautiful of all (Nima yushij)
*Example of previous periods
And beauty of spirit and greatness of a man's work is not as much beautiful a clothes as his forgiving and is not as clear as his ignoring others bad behavior (Kalileh)
More beautiful than the white copy of paradise and more elegant than everything in eye (Marban)
And no one uttered recommendation better than him (Tazkeratolia)
10. Comparative adjective along with it’s a complement takes roles of predicate, adverb, object, subject. This feature can be widely found in both periods under study and the earlier periods. Example:
His talent is more than me. (than me: predicate)./ He has more talented than me (than me: adverb).
*Example of the works under study
*Examples of pervious periods
11. In the period under study, comparative adjective sometimes takes the position of core and sometimes the position dependant. Example: This class, is more populated (More populated: core and predicate).
I chose the more populated. (the more populated: subsequent dependant)
*Examples of the works under study
Ÿ Previous examples
Dependant: I made his heart robust and big measures were taken (Beyhaghi, p. 148)
Dependant: perhaps the older sons had that attitudes that Saleh had shown. (Tabari, p.1196)
Dependant: the older son embarked trade (Kalile, p.60)
Dependant: each one with a beauty more than anything (Marzbannameh)
12. Complement of comparative adjective is sometimes seen as dependant and sometimes as dependant of dependant. Example:
I had no one better Ali and will not do (Ali: Dependent: object dependent).
I didn't have a better companion than Ali and will not do (Ali: dependant of dependant=complement of comparative adjective)
*Example of the works under study
Dependant of dependant: the points more beautiful than face like flower and finer than the complaints of separate lover (Kashkul)
Dependant: and the punishment of almighty God is harder and the one caught in it is most miserable of all (Baharestan)
Dependant of dependant: It was something bigger than disaster and more severe than catastrophe (Kashkul)
*Examples of previous periods
Dependant: Said: I didn’t see anything harder than sincerity in privacy (Tazkere)
Dependant: and forgiveness in power is more beautiful than revenge. (Jvameolhekayat)
Dependant: what blessing is higher than the one God bestowed to me. (Javameolhekayat)
13. Sometimes comparative adjective takes adverb. This adverb can have position of dependant or position of dependent of dependant.
14. Comparative adjective as the previous periods sometimes with comes with "کسره" (along with plural noun or plural terms) which is in the sense of superlative adjective. This application in this period is much weaker than previous periods. Example: The cleverest of all angels.
*Example of the works under study
Her face was was the prettiest of all women an the softest of all tempers (Sheykh bahayi)
*Examples of the previous periods
That head of merchants went to Abd-al-rahman and told this story (Tarikh-e- sistan)
Among the best companions was Abu hamed marvazi. (Kashfe-al-mahjoob)
The kindest of servitors is is whom that gives to much advice. (Kalileh)
The most hurries king is whom he is ignorant of consequences (Kalile)
That was killing of Ardavan the great of all kings (Majmal)
From eternity without begging, devil who was senior of obsoletes, was for many years in action (Khaje abdollah).
The best of thing is that has good ending (Kalileh)
The best of doctors is whom is careful of the other world when curing others (Kalile)
15. In the previous periods, complement of comparative adjective sometimes was mentioned instead of "from" and "that" after "because". This application is almost out of date now.
*Example of the previous periods
I have never seen a person so skilled in speaking like Yahya-moad-razi (Tabaghat)
If he is eaten by a lion a wolf is better than to be killed in front of me (Balami)
16. Sometimes comparative adjective in converted which in this form sometimes "یای نکره" is added to complement rather than adjective. This has little application in the period under study.
To see which type of food to bring to you that is much cleaner. (Tabari, p.922)
He appealed by the best words and finest talks (Jame, p.17)
There was not a shooter better than him (Balami, p.348)
After nature and self they constructed a person with the highest moderation and finest temper and fullest form (Sajestani)
The smallest work from him will appear the biggest (Marzbannameh)
With the weakest wind its branch would break (Marzbanname)
That is the greatest and most required knowledge (Jame, p. 81)
He approached the girl and she answered him in the best manner (Javame-al-hekayat)
*Sometimes this is mentioned without "یای نکره". Example:
17. Sometimes comparative adjective precedes before noun and without "کسره" which has the sense of superlative adjective.
This application in the period under study is almost outdated.
He is very stringent (Beyhaghi)
Then to give knowledge to fools is the highest fair (Jameh)
At that day the seniors of paradise will have the best position and the best rest place (Tabari, P.1140)
You are the dearest for me (Ghabousname, p.4)
*Evolution trend of superlative adjectives in Persian
1. Superlative adjective in middle times was constructed with a suffix of "ist" and "tum/dum" which except for seldom cases has not entered in Persian and is outdated.
2. Suffix «ـِـ شت» is of the suffixes superlative adjectives in the period of Ashkani Pahlavi Targhani that today is seen in the word "بهشت". This word has a noun role and never is used as an adjective.
3. Sometimes superlative adjective is constructed by addition of the suffix «ين» to end of words «كه، به، مه». This construction was studied at the first period as well as the previous periods but in recent it has little application.
*Examples of the works under study
*sometimes these words are seen like "Kahin, Mahin and Behin".
Don’t you know that Namroud was great God, for him was not another God (Ghesas)
You should write this letter and hand it out to the great son (Ghesas)
4. Sometimes superlative adjective appears after noun that is in the form of subsequent dependant. Example: The supreme God.
*Example of the works under study
*Example of previous periods
Wherever you see a angel and a demon… Does the name God gave him rout
All best thanks are to God (Ghesas, P.203)
The most obvious reason that our richness is our device (Kashf-al-mahjoub) enemy is the greatest advising minister (Samak, P.301)
The name of the greatest almighty God is inside this Verse (Tabri, P.11)
Shamun the greatest brother told in Hebrew (Anbia, p.90)
And also he has said: the best effort is to come out of self (Tabaghat-Al-sufie)
He sent his old son, Abutaher, to Nesa for a reason (Asrar Tohid)
In this period, superlative adjective like the previous periods sometimes come before singular noun and without "کسره".
*Example of the works under study
*Example of the previous periods
The noblest humbleness is the one that don’t see yourself higher than others (Tazkere, P.214)
The most learned of actions of servants is keeping their time (Ghashiryeh)
The simplest death is like a straw hanging from wool (Kimiyaye Sadat)
Arrogant person will not die unless God lets him go smite (Tazkore)
No king will ever give message to the meanest servant (Siyasat)
6. Sometimes superlative adjective are added before plural noun.
*Example of the works under study
Said: oh the Arab, who are the best people? God messenger (Baharestan)
*Example of previous periods
It's best to taste the sweet scented stream of the water. (Hedayeh)
Peacock is the most greedy birds (Anbia, P.75)
The worst of scholars is that SIT WITH the Sultan. (Siyasatnameh, P.75)
Religion is the most merciful of your brothers. (Kashe-al-mahjoub, P.89)
The best of fast is the fast of my brother Davoud (Kashf-al-mahjoob)
The best actions are those against ego (Tazkere, P.210)
The best of riches is who thinks of poor people and the best poor people are those who take little of riches.
7. Sometimes superlative adjective is added before plural noun with a "کسره".
*Example of the works under study
Example of previous periods
The wisest of people are those who avoid fight (Kalileh)
You try to be best of people and then everywhere you want you can be (Tazkere)
And the dearst of people are those who are humble to all. (Tazkere)
8. Sometimes superlative adjectives are added before noun or plural noun without "کسره".
Example: The best people are the most famous poets
*Examples of works under study
9. Superlative adjective in the period under study like the previous periods sometimes take the role of object. An example of Asrar-e-tohid: revelation came from God that he should select the best out of one hundred people.
*Example of the works under study
He assigned me to distort speech from the domain of Turkish to the way of Persian.
*Example of the previous periods
Revelation came tell the best to bring the worst man from Israelites. (Asrare Tohid)
10. Sometimes superlative adjective appears as a predicate.
Example: Not for the one who prays most, but the person who knows himself as the worst (worst: predicate)
*Example of the works under study
11. Sometimes superlative adjective gets the role of addressed.
Example: Oh the best of mine, oh dearest of people
Oh great magnanimous, oh the most merciful of all (Monajat)
12. Sometimes superlative adjective appears alone or along with core as an alternative.
Zahak the most inauspicious enemy of Iranians, gave two heads of men to the snake every day.
This Sheikh always young, oldest and youngest of Persian poets, first educator, which has both greatness of an educator and the kindness of a caretaker (Eslami-nadushan).
13. Sometimes superlative adjective takes subject role.
Example: The best of them, put foot ahead.
*It is worth mentioning that when superlative adjective takes will take the main role.
*Example of works under study
The best Piety is hiding piety (Shekh Bahayi).
The best of people is one who when at superiority behaves humbly (Shekh bahayi).
The best is that you sit at home (Baharestan).
*Examples of the previous periods
He has asked him what was the cleanest of businesses. (Kash mahjoob)
It was the most surprising of works of your wisdom (Kalile)
The most understanding of of people is who knows the mysteries of Quran (Tazkereh)
The most patient of people is who can tolerate other people (TTazkere)
The best behaviors is sincerity (Kash mahjoob)
The junior brother told the senior brother beware and not to eat. (Ghesas)
The lowest amount is this (Tazkere)
And told the most patient of people is who could tolerate for rightness (Tazkere)
14. Sometimes superlative adjective appears as complement. Example: I asked the youngest of them.
*Example of the works under study
*Example of the previous periods
The God that would educate the best by the lowest (Tazkere).
Said if I tell you of the biggest, you will not have patience so will tell you of the least. (Tazkere)
15. Sometimes superlative adjective appears in the position of dependant of dependant. Example: words of the best people (The best: possessive adjective)
*Example of the works under study
Possessive adjective:
*example of the previous periods
Possessive Adjective
Possessive adjective
He has laid the slab of training and realization in front of the best beings. (Marzban nameh)

4. Conclusions

Adjective provides a context for inspiring poet’s and writer’s imagination. In this regard, two comparative and superlative adjectives classify this imagination by giving auditory and comparative meaning. The study of evolution and application of two comparative and superlative adjectives in Persian language shows that auditory comparative adjectives have been specified to express different senses and descriptions of poets and writers; comparative adjectives in Persian are constructed using “tar” (er /more). Despite the fact that use of Arabic words and phrases in Iraqi style is increased from the first to eighth centuries, auditory comparative adjective has less been used in Persian poem and prose. However, superlative adjectives in Persian by applying “tarin” (most/est) suffix have been less used than those in before the eighth century. This fact indicates that comparative adjective has an evolutionary process compared to superlative adjective, and it has more been accepted by all people in Persian language, especially the contemporary period. Another point is that the position of adjective in Persian poetry after the eighth century which has appeared before and after musuf (noun which is described) with various intervals has been more effective on highlighting poetry lines of poets such as Hafez and Saadi and then Iqbal and Parvin. This emphasis on the comparative adjective sometimes changes the syntactic function of the adjective in linguistic perspective.


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