the Superlative (Advanced Level)

Lesson Introduction

A popular expression in grammar, the superlative, indicates excess. This is something seen in great supply in Dubai today. This article from A Word A Day (in the UAE) looks at what has led to the emergence of this aggrandized use of the concept in the UAE and the Gulf region at large.

Vocabulary to Note (as used in the article):
  1. reign - to rule or be in a high position
  2. chart - to plan a course or way in some detail
  3. spearhead - to lead
  4. dispossessed - being without a home or land of one's own
  5. cynic - a person who questions or doubts many things
  6. enrich - to make rich
  7. innovative - new and creative
  8. instigator - a person who starts or encourages something
  9. foray - a move into
  10. squander - to waste
  11. diminish - to make or become less
  12. illicit - not legal
  13. merchandise - products for sale
  14. iconic - very visible and having greatness
  15. commission - to give an order to make or start something
  16. regime - a system of rules
  17. ascendancy - high, prominent position
  18. herald - to announce the coming of
  19. daring - brave, without fear or hesitation
  20. ventrue - a business activity
Difficult? Try Intermediate Level

The Article (Read carefully, then complete the comprehension exercises which follow. Underlined words refer to the vocabulary above; words in green are to be defined. Open printable copy in new window.):

The Superlative

These days the superlative reigns supreme in the UAE, especially in Dubai. Some of the popular references include the tallest building, biggest shopping mall, most luxurious hotel, largest-manmade island, first underwater hotel, most number of cranes, fastest growing population, and so on.

Some may find it excessive and annoying, but it is certainly one of the things that makes the UAE experience a unique one. It is a country that is trying to chart a new and distinct identity and, thanks to Dubai's sense of adventure and ambition, it has found a way to do that.

Not everyone agrees with the course the country is taking. Although spearheaded by the country's leaders, some among the local population feel disillusioned. They see change all around them and a massive influx of foreigners. To them it is nothing short of an invasion and they are the dispossessed.

Nevertheless, it is a transformation from within. Change has not been imposed by outsiders, but rather sought and indeed chased after by the country's rulers. A cynic might say that it is just a way for them to further enrich themselves. But there are easier and far less innovative ways to do that.

From Ports to Freezones

No, there has been a sincere determination to transform the country by the most important among its rulers--the late Sheikh Zayed, founding ruler of Abu Dhabi and the federation, the late Sheikh Rashid, prime instigator of Dubai's initial forays into trade and commerce, and the present ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, the guiding force behind that emirate's breakaway development. (See rulers of the UAE.)

These leaders have had visions that they have pursued and have invested in with the nation's oil wealth. They have avoided squandering that wealth, and it is especially to the credit of Dubai's rulers that they could effectively plan for the day when those resources would begin to diminish.

Part of Dubai's success in charting new economic territory has to be attributed to a bit of luck. It naturally sought to build upon its historic position as a small regional trading hub--a runner of sorts of sometimes illicit merchandise between regional ports. Focussing on trade and commerce the iconic Dubai Trade Center was constructed as early as 1979. It at once became an early symbol of Dubai's ambitions.

The 1980's saw the commisioning of a second large shipping port in Dubai and the region's first freezone--essentially a zone within the country which allowed foreign investors and traders to function outside of local tax and other regulatory regimes. Dubai had stumbled upon a new business strategy that it would eventually expand to include a wide variety of industrial, commericial and intellectual fields.

A New Century

The ascendency of the superlative emerged from this. Jebel Ali port, in time, became part of a huge and highly profitable shipping and trade zone. Likewise the rapid success of Emirates Airlines suggested that the same could happen within the aviation sector. This led on to a realization of the potential of the tourism sector, while at the same time the retail sector had begun to experiment with concepts like the "shopping festival" and the "global village."

Success in one area led to a determination to repeat the process in other areas, with a continual ramping up of the product each step along the way. By the late 1990's the stage was set in Dubai for an era of superlatives.

Emirates Towers, one of which would be the tallest tower outside of Asia and North America, and the Burj Al Arab hotel, the tallest and arguably most luxurious hotel in the world, heralded the start of a new century. The runaway success of the concept of freehold that has emerged since, has added to the frenzy of development that is beginning to characterize the whole of the Arab Gulf region.

(The excessive use of ) the superlative, which got its start in Dubai, symbolizes the daring and self-confidence of the government, the builders, the disigners and all of those involved in these projects and ventures. It is a symbol to revel in not only for Dubai and the UAE, but for all of the oil rich Gulf states.
701 words
Article composed by BD. Original, the Superlative, at A Word A Day (in the UAE).

Comprehension Exercises
    Sentence Completion:

  1. The UAE is attempting to create for itself a identity.
  2. Some of the feel left out and intimidated by the change sweeping the country.
  3. The rapid transformation of the country is being driven by .
  4. The leader initially responsible for setting Dubai off on course toward economic development was Sheikh .
  5. The nation's vast oil wealth has not .
  6. was an early symbol of Dubai's ambitions.
  7. was/were part of new business strategy that would lead to success in a wide variety of fields.
  8. The Global Village was a concept that grew out of Dubai's attempt to develop its sector.
  9. The success that Dubai achieved in various aspects of its economy was part of strategy.
  10. The latest impetus to the rapid development of Dubai and the entire Gulf region has been the concept of .

    True or False:

  1. This article speaks to the ambitions of not only Dubai but all of the Gulf region.
    True False
  2. The drive for great achievement and economic development began in the UAE with the start of a new century.
    True False
  3. The oil wealth in the region played little part in the country's efforts to diversify its economy.
    True False
  4. The Emirates Towers became known as the tallest and arguably most luxurious hotel in the world.
    True False
  5. Use of the superlative in the Gulf is symbolic of a belief that almost anything can be achieved.
    True False

    Word Meaning From Context
    (Define the words below, after reviewing their use in the passage):

  1. disillusioned:

  2. transformation:

  3. breakaway:

  4. runner:

  5. revel:

Answers to All Questions in a pop-up box.
Feel free to challenge or disagree with any answers posted and offer suggestions.

Expansion Activities

The flow of the discourse in the article suggests a number of useful options for study and further practice in language. The following activities may be assigned in a classroom setting:
  1. Summarizing of the article in 50-100 words.
  2. Listing of the factors (presented in the article) that have led to the present day, excessive use of superalatives when talking about projects and other developments in the Gulf region.
  3. Taking one of the present-day projects listed in the article's opening paragraph and researching it for either presentation or group discussion.
  4. Taking one of the early projects or developments referenced later in the article and writing a detailed report on its history.
  5. Researching (if need be) and discussing the role of any of the leaders mentioned in the article in spearheading development within the UAE.
  6. Analyzing and discussing the use of the superlative in other societal contexts, such as in sales and marketing, the arts, politics, etc.
  7. Using the superlative in a creative writing assignment of real or fictional basis.


At Wed Jul 26, 01:38:00 PM GMT+4 , Blogger BD said...


1. unique
2. locals
3. the country's leaders
4. Rashid
5. been squandered
6. The Dubai Trade Center
7. The region's first freezone
8. retail
9. an evolving
10. freehold
True or False
1. True
2. False. It began in the 1970s.
3. False. Oil wealth was well-invested.
4. False. It was the Burj Al Arab.
5. True
Word Meaning From Context
1. unhappy, frustrated; feeling forgotten or left out
2. a complete or radical change
3. high-speed
4. a carrier or transporter
5. to celebrate or take pleasure in


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