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The adjective expresses the categorial semantics of property of a substance. It means that each adjective used in tile text presupposes relation to some noun the property of whose referent it denotes, such as its material, colour, dimensions, position, state, and other characteristics both permanent and temporary. It follows from this that, unlike nouns, adjectives do not possess a full nominative value. Indeed, words like long, hospitable, fragrant cannot effect any self-dependent nominations; as units of informative sequences they exist only in collocations showing what is long, who is hospitable, what is fragrant.
The semantically bound character of the adjective is emphasized in English by the use of the prop-substitute one in the absence of the notional head-noun of the phrase. E.g.:
I don't want a yellow balloon, let me have the green one over there.
On the other hand, if the adjective is placed in a nominatively self-dependent position, this leads to its substantivization. E.g.: Outside it was a beautiful day, and the sun tinged the snow with red. Cf.: The sun tinged the snow with the red colour.
Adjectives are distinguished by a specific combinability with nouns, which they modify, if not accompanied by adjuncts, usually in pre-position, and occasionally in postposition; by a combinability with link-verbs, both functional and notional; by a combinability with modifying adverbs.
In the sentence the adjective performs the functions of an attribute and a predicative. Of the two, the more specific function of the adjective is that of an attribute, since the function of a predicative can be performed by the noun as well. There is, though, a profound difference between the predicative uses of the adjective and the noun which is determined by their native categorial features. Namely, the predicative adjective expresses some attributive property of its noun-referent, whereas the predicative noun expresses various substantival characteristics of its referent, such as its identification or classification of different types. This can be shown on examples analysed by definitional and transformational procedures. Cf.:
You talk to people as if they were a group. > You talk to people as if they formed a group. Quite obviously, he was a friend. > His behaviour was like that of a friend.
Cf., as against the above:
I will be silent as a grave. > I will be like a silent grave. Walker felt healthy. > Walker felt a healthy man. It was sensational. > That fact was a sensational fact.
When used as predicatives or post-positional attributes, a considerable number of adjectives, in addition to the general combinability characteristics of the whole class, are distinguished by a complementive combinability with nouns. The complement-expansions of adjectives are effected by means of prepositions. E.g. fond of, jealous of, curious of, suspicious of; angry with, sick with, serious about, certain about, happy about; grateful to, thankful to, etc. Many such adjectival collocations render essentially verbal meanings and some of them have direct or indirect parallels among verbs. Cf.: be fond oflove, like; be envious of envy; be angry with resent; be mad for, about - covet; be thankful to thank.
Alongside of other complementive relations expressed with the help of prepositions and corresponding to direct and prepositional object-relations of verbs, some of these adjectives may render relations of addressee. Cf.: grateful
to, indebted to, partial to, useful for.
To the derivational features of adjectives belong a number of suffixes and prefixes of which the most important are:
-ful (hopeful), -less (flawless),-ish (bluish, -ous (famous), -ive (decorative), -ic (basic); un- (unprecedented), in- (inaccurate), pre- (premature).
Among the adjectival affixes should also be named the prefix a-, constitutive for the stative sub-class which is to be discussed below.
As for the variable (demutative) morphological features, the English adjective, having lost in the course of the history of English all its forms of grammatical agreement with the noun, is distinguished only by the hybrid category of comparison.
All the adjectives are traditionally divided into two large subclasses: qualitative and relative.
Relative adjectives express such properties of a substance as are determined by the direct relation of the substance to some other substance.
E.g.: wood a wooden hut; mathematics mathematical precision; history a historical event;
table tabular presentation; colour coloured postcards;
surgery surgical treatment; the Middle Ages mediaeval rites.
The nature of this "relationship" in adjectives is best revealed by definitional correlations. Cf.: a wooden hut a hut made of wood; a historical event an event referring to a certain period of history; surgical treatment treatment consisting in the implementation of surgery; etc.
Qualitative adjectives, as different from relative ones, denote various qualities of substances which admit of a quantitative estimation, i.e. of establishing their correlative quantitative measure. The measure of a quality can be estimated as high or low, adequate or inadequate, sufficient or insufficient, optimal or excessive. Cf.: an awkward situation a very awkward situation; a difficult task too difficult a task; an enthusiastic reception rather an enthusiastic reception; a hearty welcome not a very hearty welcome; etc.
In this connection, the ability of an adjective to form degrees of comparison is usually taken as a formal sign of its qualitative character, in opposition to a relative adjective which is understood as incapable of forming degrees of comparison by definition. Cf.: a pretty girl --a prettier girl; a quick look a quicker look; a hearty welcome the heartiest of welcomes; a bombastic speech the most bombastic speech.
However, in actual speech the described principle of distinction is not at all strictly observed, which is noted in the very grammar treatises putting it forward. Two typical cases of contradiction should be pointed out here.
In the first place, substances can possess such qualities as are incompatible with the idea of degrees of comparison. Accordingly, adjectives denoting these qualities, while belonging to the qualitative subclass, are in the ordinary use incapable of forming degrees of comparison. Here refer adjectives like extinct, immobile, deaf, final, fixed, etc.
In the second place, many adjectives considered under the heading of relative still can form degrees of comparison, thereby, as it were, transforming the denoted relative property of a substance into such as can be graded quantitatively. Cf.: a mediaeval approachrather a mediaeval approach a far more mediaeval approach; of a military design of a less military design of a more military design;
a grammatical topic ~ a purely grammatical topic the most grammatical of the suggested topics.
In order to overcome the
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