Sunday, June 12, 2011

The last and the most important word

How are we to analyze the two instances of the in the title? On p. 395, the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language deals with the and the superlatives. It takes the in examples like this point is [the most important] as being a determinative functioning as a modifier. It differentiates this from examples like this is [the most important point], where it is a determinative functioning as a determiner (aka specifier) in the noun phrase. But what happens when you coordinate superlatives as in the title? Which the is the specifier?

Presumably, it would be the first one, since the specifier would precede any modifiers. But why does the second superlative require the modifier while the first doesn't?

1 comment:

The Ridger, FCD said...

I think the first 'the' is doing double duty. You can't say "the the first word".