An English-teacher correspondent in the UK writes to tell me a very worrying - but totally to be expected - story emerging from the Key Stage 2 grammar test marking earlier this year. Question 16 asks children to complete the sentence 'The sun shone ________ in the sky.' and the mark scheme reads 'Accept any appropriate adverb, e.g. brightly, beautifully'.
A child presented the answer 'The sun shone bright in the sky', and this was marked wrong, on the grounds that it is 'not an adverb'.
Read more in David Crystal's blogIn the ensuing discussion (on 12 September) David Crystal wrote, in a comment:
This is one of the problems with trying to test grammar in the way Gove wants. Things are rarely as black and white as testers would like them to be.
The thing is that ending in '-ly' is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for being an adverb.
Many adverbs, like the problem-word 'bright', have no '-ly' ending. And a fair few adjectives end in '-ly'. Mostly, these refer to the qualities of people – kindly, poorly, portly, comely, homely, kingly..*. – or about the quality of something people do (leisurely, seemly, cowardly, gentlemanly... I'm sure there are more).
Princely doesn't seem† to fit this scheme; it doesn't have much on the face of it to do with princes per se, though I suppose there might be felt to be some connection between 'a princely sum' and a 'king's ransome'. The phrase 'a princely sum', though, is often used ironically as in 'the taxman gave me a rebate – the princely sum of <name-your-pittance>'.
† Oh yes it does. I was thinking of 'princely sum', by far the most common princely ... collocation. Here are the first 15 hits in BNC for "princely + <noun>"'. There are 124 cases, but more than 1 in 5 is 'princely sum'. The rest (apart from 'princely sums' and 'princely paypacket' – both of which weigh in at only 2 cases each) are indeed to do with the characteristics of a prince or a prince's surroundings:
etc. All the others have only one hit. (As before when I've quoted BNC, the links in that table may not work for you.) 'Princely sum' just seems to have gone into a princeless backwater for reasons best known to its thousands of users.
But UE calls. Sorry not to have said more about (to quote a tweet I saw the other day) 'the supreme Goviet'. But I was side-tracked, as so often, by BNC. That Crystal blog, and the many wise comments thereto (where wise is a signed variable, to quote an IT colleague I once had)) says it all: give it a browse.
Update 2013.10.15.14:40 – Footer updated
Update 2013.10.15.16:40 – Added PS:
*PS And lovely of course. It has an antonym, loathly but that's pretty much archaic.
Update 2013.10.23.11:20 – Added PPS:
PPS And sprightly; and manly. The idea of this form's being used predominantly for adjectives that can be applied to people clearly has legs‡. It is presumably related to the Old English suffix -lic and more recently to the productive English suffix -like.
Further to the lovely example, it's interesting that love and lovely go together, and loathe/loathsome, but both lovesome and loathly are relatively rare (apart from not sharing a meaning with their respective 'pair').
Update 2014.02.02.17:00 – Added PPPS and updated footer.
‡PPPS An aptly bi-pedal metaphor.
Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs – but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.
Freebies (Teaching resources: over 37,250 views and 5,200 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1867 views/867 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)
** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.