Absolute adjectives offer an intriguing insight into how our knowledge of the grammar of language and our unconscious mental logic work together symbiotically. The brain is a magnificent achievement of nature and even though we do not know how it forms concepts and manipulates them during speech, we can see that grammar and logic are two distinct levels of mental processing that work together when we talk.
First, the claim that absolute adjectives cannot be compared or intensified is itself a misstatement of the grammatical facts. Most of us say “more infinite”, “very complete”, “pretty unique” all the time. Are all but the prescriptive grammarians and their dupes wrong in their use of absolute adjectives?
Of course not. The absolute adjective rule is a logical, not a grammatical rule. If the universe is either infinite or not, it makes no logical sense to say more infinite. However, grammar plays on that fact. Since we know this is logically true, we are allowed to use expressions like this since the hearer will know that more infinite cannot mean “more infinite”. The closest interpretation of this phrase is “more nearly infinite”—and this is precisely the interpretation we assign to such expressions. More complete means “more nearly complete”, “more dead” means “more nearly dead”, and so on.
Logic and grammar are intertwined but they are separate processes. Grammar, as you can see here, plays on logic. It does the same thing with the class of liquid substances. Logically, a substance like water has no plural. However, the vast majority of English-speakers say things like, “Please bring us two waters” or “four coffees” or “I put three sugars in my yoghurt” all the time.
Again, grammar plays off logic so that the speaker, knowing these phrases are not literally true, applies the nearest possible interpretation: “two portions (glasses) of water”, “four portions (cups) of coffee”, “three portions (teaspoons, lumps) of sugar”. Notice that the interpretation is perfectly consistent in all instances.
The reason that I studied and researched languages and linguistics for 40 years was the discovery of insights into the human mind like these. The fact that grammar and words tell us things about how our minds work that we can find nowhere else is a compelling reason to explore language on and on. I presume everyone reading this agrees with me on this point.