Dirk Elzinga is looking for published analyses of the choice between comparatives and superlatives using -er and -est and those using more and most:
It has been stated that the choice is based on the prosody of the adjective, such that adjective bases which fit within a single trochaic foot are more likely to show morphological comparatives and superlatives, while adjectives which do not fit within that template will show syntactic comparatives and superlatives. Can anyone point me to relevant literature? I have thus far only been able to find informal or “in passing” references to the prosodic nature of adjective inflection in English, and I would appreciate being able to look at a fuller treatment of the problem.
If anyone knows, please inform Rosanne (from whom I got this) as well; she’s interested in these matters.
Incidentally, Elzinga gives synthetic forms for obtuse (“obtuse; more obtuse, most obtuse”), whereas Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate gives obtuser, -est; I find my linguistic intuition is no help here.