The question now arises whether such cases when words with an adjective stem have the paradigm of a noun should also be classified as conversion, e. g. a private, the private*s uniform, a group of privates. Other examples of words that are completely substantivized (i.e. ma, have the plural form or be used in the Possessive case) are captive, conservative, criminal, female, fugitive, grown-up, intellectual, male, mild, native, neutral, radical, red, relative and many more.
Completely substantivized adjectives may be associated with determinatives, e. g.: Swinton combed out all the undesirables (Lindsay).
There is no universally accepted evaluation of this group. E. Kruis-inga2 speaks of conversion whenever a word receives a syntactic function which is not its basic one.
The prevailing standpoint among Leningrad linguists is different. L.P. Vinokurova, I.P. Ivanova and some other scholars maintain that substantivation in which adjectives have the paradigm and syntactic features of nouns differs from conversion, as in substantivation a new word arises not spontaneously but gradually, so that a word already existing in the language by and by acquires a new syntactic function ana* changes its meaning as a result of a gradual process of isolation. There are other scholars, however, who think this reasoning open to doubt: the coining of a new word is at first nothing but a fact of contextual usage, be it a case of recognized conversion or substantivation. The process of conversion is impossible outside a context. No isolated word can ever be formed by conversion.
L.P. Vinokurova distinguishes two main types of substantivation: (1) it may be the outcome of ellipsis in an attributive phrase, e. g. the elastic (cord), or (2) it may be due to an unusual syntactic functioning. E.g.: I am a contemplative, one of the impossibles.
It may be argued, however, that there must be a moment of the first omission of the determined word or the first instance when the adjective is used in speech in a new function.
There is one more point to be considered, namely a radical difference at the synchronic level: whereas words coined by conversion form regular pairs of homonyms with words from which they are derived, no such regular pattern of modelled homonymy is possible in substantivation of adjectives. It has already been emphasized that in nouns and verbs it is the morphologically simple words that form the bulk of material used in conversion. The predominance of derived adjectives prevents this class of words from entering modelled homonymy.
1 Much interesting research has been done in the dissertation by S.M. Kostenko (see p. 160); see also Quirk R. and Greenbaum S. A University Grammar ol English. London, 1973, p.p. 441-444.
2 See: Kruisinga E. A Handbook of Present-Day English. Groningen, 1932. Pt. II, p.p. 99-161.
The degree of substantivation may be different. Alongside with complete substantivation of the type already mentioned (the private, the private's, the privates), there exists partial substantivation. In this last case a substantivised adjective or participle denotes a group or a class of people: the blind, the dead, the English, the poor, the rich, the accused, the condemned, the living, the unemployed, the wounded, the lower-paid.
We call these words partially substantivised, because they undergo no morphological changes, i.e. do not acquire a new paradigm and are only used with the definite article and a collective meaning. Besides they keep some properties of adjectives. They can, for instance, be modified by adverbs. E.g.: Success is the necessary misfortune of human life, but it is only to the very unfortunate that it comes early (Trollope). It was the suspicious and realistic, I thought, who were most easy to reassure. It was the same in love: the extravagantly jealous sometimes needed only a single word to be transported into absolute trust (Snow).
Besides the substantivised adjectives denoting human beings there is a considerable group of abstract nouns, as is well illustrated by such grammatical terms as: the Singular, the Plural, the Present, the Past, the Future, and also: the evil, the good, the impossible. For instance: "One should never struggle against the inevitable," he said (Christie)/
It is thus evident that substantivation has been the object of much controversy. Some of those, who do not accept substantivation of adjectives as a variant of conversion, consider conversion as a process limited to the formation of verbs from nouns and nouns from verbs. But this point of view is far from being universally accepted.