Do children interpret ‘marked’ comparative adjectives as their opposites?

David J. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Children aged 2;6-4;o were asked questions containing comparative and superlative forms of adjectives from pairs designated as unmarked/marked or simply positive/negative. Children’s answers required a choice of one out of five objects. Differences in frequency of correct responses were generally greater between unmarked/marked pairs than between simple positive/ negative pairs, but the response of ‘greatest extent’ to marked adjective questions was seldom a significantly common error. Linguistic arguments for the unmarked/marked distinction in comparative adjectives are reviewed, and it is concluded that there is no linguistic or behavioural evidence for a marking explanation of children’s difficulty with ‘marked’ comparative adjectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-396
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1976


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