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In conversation with 2 native German speakers I said:

Wesen, die nicht mehr entwickelt als Seesterne sind.

And they corrected me to:

Wesen, die nicht weiter entwickelt als Seesterne sind.

Can someone explain why, please?

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  • That would be most organisms in the animal kingdom, as Echinoderm evolution starts in the Cambrian ... :-) – a_donda May 12 at 18:17
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This one is actually less trivial than I tought. Intuitively I would have criticized in the same way as the mentioned natives, but the Duden includes several meanings and usages, including 'in höherem Maße' or 'besser'.

Strictly following what Duden has to say, the version with 'mehr' may not be totally incorrect.

But it doesn't sound right, just as where the Duden says 'Etwas steht mehr links besser' I would say 'weiter links' instead. Natural languages are just arbitrary from time to time ...

tl,dr: It is probably not wrong to say 'mehr' hier, though to a native speaker 'weiter' does sound much better in this case.

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"Entwickelt" is an adjective which is derived from a verb. And this verb can be connected with the suffix "weiter". So someone or something can "sich weiterentwickeln". It works with many other verbs like "weiterbilden". It could be a reason to that. I must also point out to the intonation here; if you would put "nicht" before "mehr", it can generally mean "no more" or "not any more", to avoid this, one should make a pause here before "mehr", and stress "mehr".

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    Good point. I didn't think of the verb "weiterentwickeln". duden.de/rechtschreibung/weiterentwickeln – a_donda May 13 at 0:06
  • I think, the tranisitve verb weiterentwickeln means not to stop in developing whereas the stative passive or adjectival weiter entwickelt sein in the example means höher entwickelt sein. – Ralf Joerres May 13 at 10:33
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Phrases with mehr + adjective (like mehr entwickelt) are not idiomatic in German, hence they simply sound odd. What the idiomatic expression is depends on what you wanted to say:

Comparative of entwickelt = entwickelter

Maybe you thought of more developed in English (of which it is the literal translation). However, there is no comparative with mehr in German. The comparative of entwickelt is entwickelter. If you wanted to say this, the idiomatic phrase would be:

Wesen, die nicht entwickelter als Seesterne sind

Degree of entwickelt = weit(er) entwickelt

The appropriate way to indicate the degree of an adjective that was derived from a verb (like entwickelt was from (sich) entwickeln) may depend on the adverbs used with that verb.

The adverb mehr is linked to viel. If the extent of a verb is given by the pair wenig/viel, it would be appropriate to use weniger/mehr. That are mostly transitive verbs where viel could somehow refer to an object (like viel sehen/kosten/wiegen).

However, (sich) entwickeln chiefly goes with weiter and zurück (the opposite). Hence, the derived adjective entwickelt is mostly seen with weit:

Fische entwickeln sich weiter. Sie sind weiter entwickelt als Seesterne.

Manche Staaten entwickeln sich zurück. Sie sind bald weniger (weit) entwickelt als noch vor 10 Jahren.

Other possible complements are:

Sie sind weit/hoch/stark entwickelt.

Sie sind wenig/niedrig/gering/schwach entwickelt.

There is definitely no *viel entwickelt, and that's why mehr entwickelt sounds odd in regard of degree as well.

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  • While the information is apparently useful, it doesn't provide any way for me to distinguish whether it should be taken as unfounded opinion or as linguistic fact, since the information has not backed up by corroborating authoritative reference. Although I take your point regarding the phrasing of comparatives to heart. – user44591 May 13 at 0:31
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    One issue that "more" is actually required in favor of "-er" for some English adjectives, and "developed" is one of them. So entwickelter = "developeder" sounds incorrect to English speakers. But this isn't the only feature of German that sounds incorrect in English; learners just have to get used to this kind of thing. As far as I know, the only German adjectives that don't allow -er are incomparable, so they wouldn't allow mehr either. – RDBury May 13 at 3:37
  • @user44591 You know, I sometimes just trust native speakers. And they don't need to be able to engage in scientific discussion for me to learn from them (not saying that amadeaus^2 doesn't have it). Moreover "Comparative of entwickelt = entwickelter" is well-known, who would need a reference for that? – c.p. May 14 at 5:03
  • The problem arises when one wants to generalize. – user44591 May 14 at 12:23

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