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A proposed British Romance language

6. Grammar 1: Nouns, Articles & Adjectives

with Appendix on derived adverbs of manner



  1. I have departed from IPA in the representation of mid vowels, and follow the long established academic practice when describing Vulgar Latin and the development of Romance languages, namely:

    [e]and [o] denote any front unrounded or back rounded mid vowel respectively, when the degree of height is either unknown, indeterminate or irrelevant;

    [ẹ] and [ọ] denote specifically high versions (IPA [e] and [o]);

    [ę] and [ǫ] denote specifically low versions (IPA [ɛ] and [ɔ]).

  2. Also [ə] denotes:

    - generally any reduced non-defined centralized vowel without reference to height;

    - in Late Britainese, a unstressed non-phonemic low-mid to near-low ([ɜ] to [ɐ]) central vowel, depending upon regional pronunciation.

6.1 Nouns

The Classical Latin case system and the distribution of nouns between the different declensions underwent considerable reduction and simplification in Vulgar Latin. The main drivers for this were phonetic changes (e.g. the loss of final -m and the confusion of unaccented o ~ u and e ~ i) and general drift of the language towards more analytical forms with a greater use of prepositions to indicate syntactic relations.

6.1.1 Loss of cases
In Classical Latin the old Indo-European case system was already breaking down, the instrumental and ablative cases having fallen together as the Latin ablative. The locative case had also largely fallen together with the ablative with just a handful of nouns retaining a distinct form. Even in Proto-Indo-European, vocatives were distinguished only in the singular; in the plural, as in Latin, the nominative also did duty as a vocative. In Classical Latin, a distinct singular vocative occurred only with 2nd declension musculine nouns whose nominative ending in -us; otherwise the nominative served also as vocative. But even with 2nd declension masculine in -us, we find examples of the nominative singular being used vocative, e.g. Audī tū, populus Albānus [Livy 1.24] "Hear, you people of Alba."

This process continued in Vulgar. The vestigial locative case disappears entirely, as does the vocative most areas. It remained in Romanian where other more distinct forms developed under the influence of neighboring Slav languages; it did not, however, survive in central or western Romance.

Through phonetic weakening the endings of the accusative and ablative singulars of most nouns (3rd declension neuters being an exception; but the neuter gender did not survive as we shall see in the next subsection) became identical which led to the demise of the ablative, e.g. cum libertos "with freedmen" (Classical Latin cum lībertīs); pro hoc ipsud "for this very [purpose]" (CL prō hōc ipsō); a monazontes "from the monks" (CL ā *monazontibus).

Thus generally in Vulgar Latin there would at one time have no more than four cases at most: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative. But it seems there was a tendency for genitive and dative to fall together into a single case. This three case system persisted into the Proto-Romance period and survives to the present day in some pronominal forms in all the Romance languages, as we shall see when we consider pronouns on the next page.

While in the east the nominative and accusative fell together giving the declension system of modern Romanian (nominative/accusative, genitive/dative, vocative), things developed differently in central and western Romance (where the vocative was not retained). From as early as Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BC) we find a growing tendency to use prepositions rather than simple cases; thus we find ad with the accusative replacing the dative, e.g. ad eum dīcit "he said to him", ad febricitantēs prōsunt "they are beneficial for people who have a fever."; and with the ablative/accusative as a substitute for the genitive, e.g. dīmidium dē praedā "half of the booty", and from late Latin: clérici de ipsa ecclésia "the clergy of the church"; fílios de fílio meo Childerbérto "the sons of my son Childerbert."

Thus in the west we find in Old French and old Occitan we find nouns have just two cases: nominative (cas sujet); oblique (cas régime). Other relations were shown by preposition and the oblique case. Feminine nouns derived the Latin 1st declension had no distinct case forms, the nominative and oblique being identical. We may suspect that something similar had developed in Iberian Romance and in the central Romance of Italy; but it broke down early in these areas and by the time written records nouns lack case distinction. In France case distinction held on till the 12th century, but was starting to break down then and this continued during the course of the 13th century and had disappeared by the end of the 14th century. Almost always in all the western Romance languages it was the oblique ('accusative') form that survived.

There were a few nominative survivals, e.g. prêtre (acc. provoire), fils, Louis, Charles, Jacques in French, Dios, Carlos in Spanish and Deus, Carlos in Portuguese, where the word was often used in the nominative, especially as 'nominative of address' (i.e. vocative). Sometimes in French both the nominative and accusative survive with different means, e.g. sire, sieur ~ seigneur, gars ~ garçon

6.1.2 Reduction of genders
In Petronius' Cēna Trīmalchiōnis (c.60 AD) we find confusion of masculine and neuter genders, e.g. fātus "fate", vīnus "wine", caelus "sky" are masculine where Classical Latin had neuter fātum, vīnum, caelum; and librum "book" neuter for the Classical masculine liber (acc. librum). This process continued during Imperial times so and, although traces of the old neuter gender live on in Italian and eastern Romance with a set of nouns that have masculine singular forms and feminine plurals, in western Romance we find only the two gender - masculine and feminine - the old neuters having almost entirely been absorbed by the masculine gender. Occasionally an old neuter plural has become a feminine singular, most notably: French feuille, Occitan fuèlha /ˈfɥęʎo/, Catalan fulla /ˈfuʎə/, Spanish hoja /ˈoxa/ (← Old spanish foja /ˈfoʒa/), Portuguese folha /ˈfoʎɐ/ ← Vulgar Latin folia /ˈfǫlja/ (Classical Latin folium /ˈfoli.um/) "leaf".

It might be argued that when final /ə/ became silent in Middle Britainese, the distinction between masculine and feminine became obscured and grammatical gender disappeared as it has in modern English. But:

  • Similar dropping of final unstressed vowels occurred in the Brittonic languages (Welsh, Cornish, Breton), but these have maintained the masculine~feminine distinction till the present day;
  • English has maintained the three gender system, inherited from its Germanic origins, until the present day with its 3rd person pronouns; indeed, the modern use of 'they/ them' as a singular epicene pronoun (e.g. ""The patient should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay") clearly shows this. What has happened in English is that the neuter gender has expanded so that all inanimate objects and abstract concepts (unless personified) animals where biological sex is irrelevant are now neuter with the pronoun referent it.

If Middle Britainese did gradually drop grammatical gender distinction, it would have only one singular 3rd person pronoun as, e.g. Hungarian ő or Turkish o = "he/ she/ it". Indeed, a case could be made out for this development; but as in our timeline both the Brittonic languages and the western Romance languages have maintained the two-way masculine~feminine distinction, it is surely certain that Britainese would have behaved likewise in BART.

6.1.3 Reduction of declensions
Latin grammars set out five different declensions for nouns; in Vulgar Latin this was reduced to just three. The two lost declensions were:
4th declension → 2nd declension
In Classical Latin both domus "house, home" and fīcus "fig" and we find the 4th declension words frūctus "produce, fruit, yield, result" is found with 2nd decl. genitive frūctī as well as the normal frūctūs, and senātus "senate" is also found with genitive senātī as well as the normal senātūs. In later writers we find other 4th declension nouns being treated as 2nd declension including neuters, e.g. cornu → cornum "horn", genu → genum "knee". In the Vulgar Latin the whole declension went over the 2nd with neuters being merged with masculines.

The majority of 4th declension nouns were masculine (as were the 2nd declension nouns). Of the few feminines, nurus "daughter-in-law" became 1st decl. nura* and socrus "mother-in-law" became 1st decl. socra. The only noun to join the 2nd declension and retain its feminine gender in Vulgar Latin was manus "hand", hence: French la main, Occitan la man, Catalan la mà, Spanish la mano, Portuguese a mão, Italian la mano.

* Derivatives in Romance languages, e.g. Occitan sògra, Catalan sogra, Spanish suegra, Portuguese sogra, show that in Vulgar Latin it was /'nǫra/.

5th declension → 1st declension (with two exceptions)
doublets such as māteriēs (5th) ~ māteria (1st) "matter, material", minūtiēs (5th) ~ minūtia (1st) "smallness, minuteness", lūxuriēs (5th) ~ lūxuria (1st) "luxuriance, extravagance, profusion", facilitated the transformation of all other words to the 1st declension with just a few exceptions which joined the 3rd declension, e.g: rēs "thing", whose accusative rem lives on to the present day in French rien and Occitan ren; spēs "hope" which besides the accusative spem also had an accusative spēnem from which Italian spene is derived; fidēs "faith" from which is derived: French foi, Occitan, Catalan, Spansg & Portuguese fe, Italian fede (Britainese faidh).

All nouns of this declension. with the sole exception of diēs "day" and its compounds, e.g. merīdiēs "midday, noon", had been feminine and were thus well suited to shift to the 1st declension where the vast majority of nouns were also feminine. In some areas diēs joined the 3rd declension, hence: Old French di (surviving now only in midi "midday, south" and in names of the days of week), Franco-Provençal di, Italian (archaic and poetic); in others it joined the 1st declension but retained its masculine gender, hence: Occitan lo dia, Catalan el dia, Spanish el día, Portuguese o dia.

In many Romance languages the word for day is derived from Latin diurnus, e.g. French jour, Italian giorno. In Britainese di survives only in names of days of the week, the word for "day" being jorn.

The three declensions that survived in Vulgar Latin and in the early forms of French, Occitan and Britainese were:
1st Declension
The vast majority of nouns of this declension were feminine. The masculine nouns were mostly proper names; of the few masculine common nouns, none survived into Proto-Western-Romance, except dia imported from the old 5th declension (see above).

The Latin nominative plural had originally ended -ās ( ← *-ā+es) as it continued to be in Oscan. But in the Classical language we find -āī → -ae due to influence of the 2nd declension (and possibly reinforced by Greek). However, the original ending appears to have survived in rural speech and Vulgar Latin. Thus we find that in late Vulgar Latin and, thus, in Old French and Old Britainese there is no distinction between nominative and oblique cases; e.g. porta ~ porte "door":

Vulgar Latin Old French & Old Britainese
 singularplural singularplural
nom./ obl.portaportasnom./ obl.porteportes
2nd Declension
The majority of nouns of this declension were either masculine or neuter and, as we have seen above, the neuter nouns (including those 'imported' from the old 4th declension) were absorbed into the masculine group in Vulgar Latin. Of the few feminine nouns in this declension, the most common was manus "hand;", imported from the 4th declension (see above).

Third declension neuters such as tempus "time" and corpus "body" as well as caput (→ *capus) "head" joined the the 2nd declension masculines. The 3rd declension os (genitive ossis) "bone" already had a 2nd declension alternative ossum attested in the Classical period; in Vulgar Latin the 2nd declension variant prevailed as we see, e.g. in Italian and Portuguese osso and Spanish hueso.

In this declension the two remaining cases of late Vulgar Latin remained distinct, e.g. mur(u)s "wall":

Vulgar Latin Old French & Old Britainese
 singularplural singularplural

If the stem of a noun ended in -s, then the word was invariant, e.g.:
oss "bone(s) [nominative & oblique]"

3rd Declension
Nouns occurred in all three genders in Classical Latin; in Vulgar Latin this was reduced to two: masculine and feminine. The awkward thing about this declension is that the nominative singular may be variously formed and does not always indicate the stem for the other case endings. Those learning Classical Latin will learn the nominative and genitive singular of a noun, since by removing the ending -is of the latter we have the stem to which all the other case endings may be added. In late Vulgar Latin we just nominative and oblique; what we can say is that the endings in late Vulgar and in Old French and Old Britainese were:
Vulgar Latin Old French & Old Britainese
 singularplural singularplural
To give examples of all possibilities would be complicated and Old French and Old Britainese did not always agree on nominative singular. We give just three examples, canis "dog", nępos "nephew", vọx "voice", with the corresponding Old Britainese forms:
Vulgar Latin Old Britainese
 singularplural singularplural

The -e at the end of vouce probably just showed that the preceding c was soft, i.e. vouce = [vut͡ʃ]. Possibly vouces represented a theoretical /vut͡ʃs/, i.e. actual [vut͡ʃ], rather than [vut͡ʃəz]; but the latter pronunciation, based on analogy and spelling, was that of later Britainese, see below.

In Middle Britainese this broke down (as, indeed, it did in French and Occitan).

It will be apparent from the above that the ending -s occurred more often as a plural ending. As [ə] in final unstressed syllables fell silent during the Middle Britainese period, so types like porte (sing.) ~ portes (plu.) became port (sing.) ~ ports, i.e. behaving just like the oblique mur ~ murs, can ~ cans, neboud ~ nebouds etc. This put pressure on the latter types of noun to have just the one form like port ~ ports, i.e. for a distinct nominative to disappear.

The unstressed [ə] did, however, remain in the plural of words like ros (← rose) [roz] ~ roses ['rozəz] "rose(s)" ← Latin: rosa ~ rosās. By analogy with such words and with -(e)s becoming felt specifically as the plural ending, we find formerly indeclinables like oss "bone" acquiring a plural osses "bones."

Thus by the end of the Middle Britainese period case distinction and different declension patterns has disappeared entirely.

6.1.4 Summary
In Late Britainese, nouns:
  • distinguish singular and plural, e.g. can ~ cans [kan] ~ [kanz] "dog ~ dogs"; pass ~ passes [pas] ~ ['pasəz] "step, pace ~ steps, paces"; ros ~ roses [roz] ~ ['rozəz] "rose ~ roses" (words ending in z will be rare and are possibly not found in Britainese). Note: in nouns ending in -sce [ʃ], -ce [t͡ʃ], -ge [d͡ʒ] and -sie [ʒ] the final e, silent in the singular, is pronounced [ə] in the plural, e.g. vouce [vut͡ʃ] ~ vouces ['vut͡ʃəz] "voice ~ voices."
  • are of masculine or feminine gender, there being no neuter, e.g. mur "wall" is masculine; ros "rose" is feminine. Sometimes homophones are distinguished only by gender, e.g. port "door" (← Latin porta) is feminine, but port "port, harbo(u)r" (← Latin portus) is masculine.
  • do not have case suffixes. The relationship of a noun to the rest of the clause or sentence is shown by word order and by prepositions as in all modern western Romance languages.


6.2 Articles

Latin, like e.g. Russian and Chinese today, had no articles. All the Romance languages, however, have both indefinite and definite articles, just as English and the modern Germanic languages do. Usually the definite article is derived from the Latin demonstrative ille "that", but a few languages (e.g. Sardinian, some varieties of Old Occitan, and Balearic Catalan) have forms from ipse "self." The indefinite article everywhere is derived from the number ūnus "one."

French and, to a lesser extent, Italian, have a partitive article that approximately translates as "some", used either with mass nouns or with plural nouns. In French, nearly all nouns, singular and plural, must be accompanied by an article (either indefinite, definite, or partitive) or demonstrative pronoun, since in the spoken language there is very often no other way of distinguishing between singular or plural. This does not apply to Britainese nor, indeed, to most other Romance languages. There is reason to suppose Britainese would have developed a partitive article in the French manner.

6.2.1 Definite article
There is no reason to suppose that Britainese in common with most other western Romance languages would not have had a definite article as a proclitic derived from Latin: ille [masc.], illa [fem.], illud [neut.].

As a proclitic ille would have lost the first syllable and, from the section above, we may expect the feminine to have had no case distinction, and to have been [lə] (sing.) and [ləz] (or [ləs] before an initial voiceless consonant) (plural); but these were not word final like the -e [ə] of 1st declension feminine nouns in Old Britainese. It was a proclitic and therefore the first syllable of a longer phonological word; as such, although the spellings le and les were found in Old Britainese, the spellings la and las were more common and eventually became standard, e.g. la ros [lə'roz] ~ las roses [ləz'rozəz]. In the singular [ə] will be elided before a word beginning with a consonant or silent h, e.g l’ hour [lur] "the hour" but las hours [lə'zurz] "the hours."

The masculine forms would have had nominative and oblique forms in Old Britainese. Clearly the nominative plural would have been li as indeed it was in Old French. We may expect the singular to have been le, but it may have, like Old French, have had li from a Vulgar Latin *(il)li. But neither of these concern us here as they will have dispeared during the Middle Britainese period, leaving only forms derived from Latin (il)lu(m) and (il)lōs. Both Latin /u/ and /o:/ gave way to a common /ọ/ in Proto-Western-Romance and became /u/ in unstressed position in Britainese (see 4.4.5). Thus the singular will be [lu] in Britainese, spelled variously as lu, lo, lou in Old Britainese, but uniformly as lo in Late Britainese. Similarly the plural will be los [luz] ([lus] before an initial voiceless consonant).


[lus] before voiceless consonants,
[luz] elsewhere
femininel’ , la
l’ [l] before vowels and silent h,
la [lə] elsewhere
[ləs] before voiceless consonants,
[ləz] elsewhere

In Western and Central Romance languages we find that certain prepositions often combine with the definite article. Italian and Portuguese have many prepositions which may form such contractions; others have a more restricted array. Indeed Spanish has only two such contractions: de + eldel "of the" [masc. sing.], and a + elal "to the" [masc. sing.]. It will be noticed that these contractions occur only when the definite article begins with a vowel. This is so also of Portuguese, Catalan and Romansh: contractions if and only if the definite article begins with a vowel.

In both French and Occitan we do find contractions the masculine article (le in french and lo [lu] in Occitan) but this occurred because of "secondary velarization of 'dark l'" in France during the 11th and 12th centuries and which I have specifically ruled out for Britainese (see section 3.2.3).

Interestingly, the prepositions de and a/ à are derived from Latin and ad which came to be used to replace the old genitive and dative cases respectively (see 5th paragraph of 6.1.1 above). In Britainese these prepositions become de [də] and a [ə] (or adh [əð] before a vowel or silent h. cf. Italian and Old French a, ad). But as there are no forms of the definite article beginning with a vowel and Britainese had no secondary velarization of 'dark l', there will be no contractions of these prepositions with the definite article in Britainese.

6.2.2 Indefinite article
All the Romance languages use the same word as they do for the numeral "one", which are all derived from Latin ūnus. It would be perverse if Britainese did otherwise.

In Old Britainese Latin ūnus [masc.], ūna [fem.] would have given the masculine forms uns [ynz] (nominative), un [yn] (oblique), and the single feminine form une ['ynə]. During Middle Britain this broke down (as we saw above with nouns in section 6.1 above) and [y] became unrounded so that in modern Britainese we have the single form: un [in].

As an indefinite article it will be a proclitic and the final [n] will become [ŋ] before a velar consonant, [m] before a labial and [ɱ] before a labiodental, e.g. un can [iŋ'kan] "a dog" [masc.], un port [im'port] "a door" (When the word means "one" it is written ún and the nasal is more resistant to assimilation).

It will thus be seen that, unlike the definite article, the indefinite article has no gender distinction. Before the article, de simply elides its vowel, e.g. d’un can [diŋ'kan] "of a dog", and adh remains, e.g. adh un port [əðim'port] "to a door."


6.3 Adjectives

In Latin there was not a clear distinction between nouns and adjectives; they had, for the most part case endings and declension paradigms just like nouns. They, therefore, suffered the same fate as nouns in Old Britainese: cases reduced to just nominative & oblique for masculine forms and just a single form for feminines. There was also for the most part the same reduction of genders to just masculine and feminine. A neuter, however, was retained in the singular only and used exclusively as the attribute of an impersonal subject; as it always identical with the singular masculine oblique, we will not show it separately in the tables below.

There was, however, no reduction of declension paradigms in Vulgar Latin, as Classical Latin had no adjectives with 4th and 5th declension endings. Indeed, there were only two types of adjectives in Latin:

  • Type 1: these use 1st declension endings for feminine and 2nd declension endings for the masculine and neuter, e.g. bǫnus (masc.) ~ bǫna (fem.) "good";
  • Type 2: these use 3rd declension endings for all three genders. It means that even in Classical Latin, masculine and feminines were only distinguished, if at all (the majority of adjectives made no distinction), in the nominative singular, e.g. grandis (masc. & fem.) "great".

This distinction between Type 1, which has distinct masculine and feminine forms, and Type 2 where the two genders are the same survives in most Romances languages till the present day, e.g.


The masculine singular drops the final -o in Spanish and, mostly, in Italian when before a noun; in Catalan the masculine singular is bon before a noun and bo elsewhere.

singularmasc. & fem.grandegran(de)grangrande
pluralmasc. & fem.grandesgrandesgransgrandi

In Spanish gran is used before singular nouns, but grande elsewhere; gran may also be used in Italian before singular nouns beginning with a consonant except z and 'impure s'.

Note: while Portuguese, Spanish and Italian maintain this system inherited from Vulgar Latin, in Catalan we find that many former Type 2 adjectives have now developed separate feminine forms and joined Type 1; it is made easier in Catalan as the masculine forms of Type 1 and Type 2 are identicle.

6.3.1 Adjectives in Old Britainese
While Type 1 adjectives behaved much the same way in both Old Britainese and Old French, this was not true of Type 2 adjectives Old French where some remodelling took place. Therefore to keep things simple we give only the Vulgar Latin and Old Britainese, thus:
Type 1:
Vulgar Latin Old Britainese
 singularplural singularplural
 masc.fem.masc.fem.  masc.fem.masc.fem.
nom.bǫnusbǫnabǫnibǫnas nom.bonsbonebonbones
Type 2:
Vulgar Latin Old Britainese
 singularplural singularplural
 masc.fem.masc.fem.  masc.fem.masc.fem.
nom.grandisgrandes nom.grandsgrands
6.3.2 Adjectives in Modern Britainese
It will be seen that with loss both of final [ə] and of nominative forms, adjectives cease to distinguish between masculine and feminine, thus:
  • "good" = bon (singular) ~ bons (plural)
  • "great" = grand (singular) ~ grands (plural).

In other words, in Britainese all Type 1 adjectives have joined Type 2; this is the exact reverse of Modern French, which has completed the trend noted above in Catalan, and all adjectives (except where masculine already ends in -e as, e.g. propre) have joined Type 1 in having separate masculine and feminine forms, thus not only bon ~ bonne, bons ~ bonnes but now also grand ~ grande, grands ~ grandes.

Although Britainese adjective do not distinguish gender, they must show number agreement, e.g. un bon can "a good dog", los bons cans "the good dogs" Position of adjectives
From the examples in the preceding paragraph it may look as though attributive adjectives go before the noun they qualify as they do in English. This is not so. In all the Western Romance languages and in all the Brittonic languages in our timeline, adjectives normally follow the noun, e.g. la port verd "the green door", but a small number commonly precede. Clearly this must be the case in Britainese also. In the Romance languages adjectives for "good, bad, big, small" tend to come before the noun, hence un bon can "a good dog" but un can nair "a black dog."

In Britainese adjectives that normally precede the noun include:
bon "good", mal "bad", grand "great, big", ? "small, little", bel "fine, beautiful".

Adjectives preceding a noun generally a vaguer or more general meaning, whereas after the noun the meaning is more specific, e.g.

  • un cert caus [in't͡ʃert kau̯z] "a certain thing" (specific but not explicitly stated) ~
    un caus cert [iŋ'kau̯z t͡ʃert] "a sure thing, definite thing.";
  • un paubr homn [im'pau̯br̩ omn̩] "a poor man (who deserves pity)" ~
    un homn paubr [in'omn̩ pau̯br̩] "a poor man (who has little or no money)";
  • un bel journ [im'bel d͡ʒurn] "one fine day" (some unspecified or unknown time) ~
    un journ bel [in'd͡ʒurn bel] "a beautiful day";
  • un vail amig [im'vəi̯l ə'mig] "an old friend" (someone I've known for years) ~
    un amig vail [inə'mig vəi̯l] "an old friend, a friend who is advanced in years."

Adjectives used as predicates have the same meaning as attributive adjectives that follow the noun.

6.3.3 Comparison of adjectives
In Latin comparatives and superlatives were synthetically formed with the suffixes -ior and -issimus, e.g. grandis "great", grandior "greater", grandissimus "greatest " (there were variants of the superlative suffix for some words, but they do not concern us here).

The text books tells that if an an adjective ends in -eus, -ius or -uus, we form the comparative and superlative analytically with the adverbs magis "more" and maximē "most", e.g. strēnuus "vigorous", magis strēnuus "more vigorous", maximē strēnuus "most vigorous". But, in fact, the situation was much more complicated than that and magis and maximē were commonly used with a greater range of adjectives; and we can be certain that in Vulgar Latin the analytical forms came to be more and more used.

Indeed, very few synthetic forms survive in the Romance languages, and in the Iberian peninsular and in Romanian the modern languages use words derived from magis to form comparatives (the Latin superlative did not survive, the superlative being expressed by putting the definite article before the comparative or, in the case of Romanian, the determiner cel before the comparative).

But throughout the Italian peninsular, northern Italy, Raetia and France, the Romance languages and dialects have forms derived from Latin plūs "more" to form comparative. This was not unknown in Classical Latin, e.g. plūs est fōrmōsus Iollas "Iollas is more beautiful" Nemesianus, 4th Eclogue, line 72.

However, it is not quite as clear a division as it may seem. In Occitan we find that some dialects have forms derived from magis and some from plūs; in Old Catalan we also find plus or pus for "more" as well as Old Portuguese chus (← plūs). In Old French we find mais (← magis) with the meaning "more" (though not used, as far as I know, to form comparatives).

One reason, perhaps, that derivatives from plūs won out over those from magis in many areas is that the latter also gave derivatives for "but" and "ever, never" (cf. French mais "but", jamais (← jam magis) "ever, never"; Italian ma "but", mai "ever, never").

Clearly both words would have been in the Vulgar Latin of Britain; it is, I think, more likely that plus /pliz/ would have won out with the meaning "more", as in France, Raetia and Italy, leaving derivative magis to their other meanings. Thus e.g.:

grand "great"plus grand "greater"lo/la plus grand "greatest"
verd "green"plus verd "greener"lo/la plus verd "greenest"
bel "beautiful"plus bel "more beautiful"lo/la plus bel "most beautiful"

The adjectives "good" and "bad" are irregularly compared in English, i.e. with "better, best" and "worse, worst" respectively, just as they are in the Brittonic languages, e.g. Welsh: da, gwell, gorau "good, better, best" and drwg, gwaeth, gwaethaf "bad, worse, worst" and in all the central and western Romance languages where forms derived from Latin meliōre(m) [męliˈọrę] and peiōre(m) [pęjˈjọrę] respectively. Clearly these two adjectives will have similar irregular comparison in Britainese.

bon "good"mailour [məi̯'lur] "better"lo/la mailour "best"
mal "bad"paiour [pəi̯'jur] "worse"lo/la paiour "worst"
  • The adverb mout [mut], like the Latin multum from whose Vulgar Latin form mout is derived, means "much, very much, greatly, very.". It may be used with the positive form, e.g. mout bon "very good" and before the comparative mout mailour "much better."
  • In In Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan we find a form, often called absolute superlative, formed by adding the suffixes -issimo, -ísimo, -íssimo, -íssim respectively, e.g. buonissimo, buenísimo, bonísimo, boníssim "very good, the best possible." This, however, was not inherited from Vulgar Latin; it was adopted by Italian from Classical Latin during the Renaissance and spread from there to other Romance languages. The suffix issime is also found in French, but is much more restricted in use; there is, e.g. no French word *bonissime. See "French words suffixed with -issime." Doubtless Britainese would also know the suffix -íssim but it use is likely to have been restricted in a similar (though not the same) way as in French. Comparison of inferiority
When speaking of the comparison of adjectives, we generally think in terms comparisons of superiority as in all the examples above. But we may also make comparison of inferiority; we do this in English with the adverbs less and least as will be apparent in the examples below. In all the central and western Romance languages is done with an adverb derived from the Latin minus [ˈmɪnʊs]; e.g. French moins, Catalan menys (ny = [ɲ]), Spanish & Portuguese menos, Italian meno. In Britainese this will be mains [məi̯nz] (or [məi̯ns] before an adjective beginning with a voicelss consonant), e.g.
grand "great"mains grand "less great"lo/la mains grand "the least great"
verd "green"mains verd "less green"lo/la mains verd "the least green"
bel "beautiful"mains bel "less beautiful"lo/la plus bel "the least beautiful"
bon "good"mains bon "less good"lo/la mains bon "the least good"
mal "bad"mains mal "less bad"lo/la mains mal "the least bad"
6.3.4 Appendix: Derived adverbs of manner
In the central and western Romance language, adverbs of manner are formed by suffixing -ment(e) to the feminine of the adjective; this derived from the ablative of Latin feminine noun mēns "mind, disposition, purpose." In these language (except French where word stress is no longer distinctive) the primary stress is on the suffix; but their remains a secondary stress where the adjective had its primary stress which will be on the syllable before the final -a or -e of the feminine. So in Old Britainese we have belle → bellement [ˌbeləˈment] "beautifully", certe → certement [ˌt͡ʃertəˈment] "certainly, definitely".

In Old Britainese, however, and in Old French, Type 2 adjectives which ended in a consonant and had no separate feminine form awkward combinations did occur which subject to assimilation of final consonant of the adjective, e.g.

 Old FrenchOld Britainese
fortfortment, formentfortment, fordment
grandgrammentgranment, gramment

During the Middle Britainese period as the distinctive feminine of Type 1 become silent, the adverb ending came to be considered as -ement [əˈment], cf. bel ~ bel(l)ement, cert ~ certement. This led to an analogical restructuring of adverbs formed from old Type 2 adjectives which had the advantage of avoiding awkward consonant combinations and assimilations, thus, e.g. fort → fortement [ˌfortəˈment], grand → grandement [ˌgrandəˈment].

In Middle and later Britainese, (semi-)learned borrowings from medieval or classical Latin gave rise to some adjectives being irregularly stressed on the penultimate syllable, e.g. fácil [ˈfat͡ʃil] (← fácilis) "easy, simple [to do]", plácid [ˈplat͡ʃid] (← plácidus) "placid, calm"; when adverbs were derived from them the secondary stress remained in the same place as the primary stress of the adjective and was similarly marked with an acute accent, thus: fácilement [ˌfat͡ʃiləˈment] "easily, simply" , plácidement [ˌplat͡ʃidəˈment] "placidly, calmly"

In Old Britainese mal "bad" served both as an adjective and as an adverb; but during the Middle Britainese the regular malement became increasingly more common and is the standard form in Late Britainese. One adverb, however, stubbornly remained an exception just as the Romance derivative of Latin bene have done in all other Romance languages, that is: ben "well", the adverb form of the adjective bon "good."
Summary: in late Britainese

  • Adverbs of manner are formed from adjectives by suffixing -ement [əˈment] which bears the primary stress, e.g. mal → malement [ˌmaləˈment] "badly";
  • the adverb has secondary stress where the adjective had its primary stress; if this is irregular it is shown with an acute accent, e.g. plácid → plácidement [ˌplat͡ʃidəˈment] "placidly, calmly"
  • There is one exception: the adjective bon "good" has the adverb form ben "well".

Adverbs of manner are compared in the same as adjective with plus for comparisons of superiority and mains for comparisons of inferiority. There are only two exceptions:

ben "well"mails [məi̯lz] "better"lo/la mails "best"
malement "badly"pais [pəi̯z] "worse"lo/la pais "worst"

Note: mails and pais are derived from Latin melius and peius respectively.