SUBSTANTIVISATION OF ADJECTIVES

  1. Adjectives in rhymes.
  2. Adjectives made from nouns
  3. Adjectives made from verbs
  4. B. Match the adjectives in the left column to the nouns in the right column (as they appear in the article). Make up your own sentences with them.
  5. Choose the correct form of the participles used as adjectives in the following sentences.
  6. COMPOUND ADJECTIVES
  7. D) Find adjectives in the first two texts which mean the following.

It is common knowledge that adjectives can, under certain circumstances, be substantivised, i. e. become nouns. This is a phenomenon found in many languages, e. g. in Russian: compare and ; and . In German, compare ein gelehrter Mann and ein Gelehrter; in French, un homme savant and un savant, etc. The phenomenon is also frequent enough in English. The questions which arise in this connection are: (a) what criteria should be applied to find out if an adjective is substantivised or not? (B) is a substantivised adjective a noun, or is it not?

As to the first question, we should recollect the characteristic features of nouns in Modern English and then see if a substantivised adjective has acquired them or not. These features are, (1) ability to form a plural, (2) ability to have a form in -'s if a living being is denoted, (3) ability to be modified by an adjective, (4) performing the function of subject or object in a sentence. If, from this point of view, we approach, for example, the word native, we shall find that it possesses all those peculiarities, e. g. the natives of Australia, a young native, etc.

The same may be said about the word relative (Meaning a person standing in some degree of relationship to another): my relatives, a close relative, etc. A considerable number of other examples might be given. There is therefore every reason to assert that native and relative are nouns when so used, and indeed we need not call them substantivised adjectives. Thus the second of the above questions would also be answered.

Things, are, however, not always as clear as that. A familiar example of a different kind is the word rich. It certainly is substantivised, as will be seen, for example, in the title of a novel by C. P. Snow, "The Conscience of the Rich". It is obvious, however, that this word differs from the words native and relative in some important points: (1) it does not form a plural, (2) it can not be used in the singular and with the indefinite article, (3) it has no possessive form. Since it does not possess all the characteristics of nouns but merely some of them, it will be right to say that it is only partly substantivised. The word rich in such contexts as those given above stands somewhere between an adjective and a noun.

The same may be said of the poor, the English, the Chinese, also the wounded, the accused (Which were originally participles), and


64 The Adjective

a number of other words. We might even think of establishing a separate part of speech, intermediate between nouns and adjectives, and state its characteristic features as we have done for parts of speech in general. However, there would appear to be no need to do so. We shall therefore confine ourselves to the statement that these words are partly substantivised and occupy an intermediate position.

Sometimes the result of substantivisation is an abstract noun, as in the following examples: The desire for a more inward light had found expression at last, the unseen had impacted on the seen. (FORSTER) Her mind was focused on the invisible. (Idem) Nouns of this type certainly have no plural form.

ADJECTIVISATION OF NOUNS

There is also the question of the opposite phenomenon - that of nouns becoming adjectives. For a variety of reasons, this question presents a number of difficulties and has, accordingly, given rise to prolonged and inconclusive discussions. The facts are, briefly stated, these. In Modern English a noun may stand before another noun and modify it. Witness numerous formations of the type stone wall, speech sound, peace talks, steel works, the Rome treaty, etc. The question, as usually asked, is, whether the first component of such phrases is a noun or whether it has been adjectivised, i. e. become an adjective. 1Different views have been put forward here. The view that the first element of such phrases as stone wall is a noun has been defended by H. Sweet 2and others, the view that it is an adjective or at least approaches the adjective state, by O. Jespersen 3and others, and finally the view has also been expressed that this element is neither a noun nor an adjective but a separate part of speech, viz. an attributive noun. 4The very variety of opinions on the subject shows that the problem is one of considerable difficulty.

We shall become aware of that peculiar difficulty if we attempt to apply here the criteria serving to distinguish a noun from an adjective. It must be stated at once, though, that one criterion, namely that of degrees of comparison, is useless here. The first element of those phrases is indeed unable to form degrees of comparison, but that in itself does not prove that the element is not

1 Another question concerning these formations is whether they are phrases or compound nouns. We will not go into this question here.

2 H. Sweet, A New English Grammar, Part I, 173.

3 O. Jespersen, A Modern English Grammar, Part II, p. 310 ff.

4 See . . , . ' . . 14, 1957.


Adjectivisation of Nouns 65

an adjective, since many adjectives, e. g. wooden, woollen, European, do not form degrees of comparison either.

The criteria to be applied here are the following: (1) Has the first element of those phrases number distinctions? (2) Is it able in the cases when it denotes a human being to have a possessive form? (3) Does it denote a substance or a property? Strangely enough all these questions are very hard to answer. As to (1), it must be stated that the first element usually appears only in one number form, which is either singular or plural, e. g. stone wall, not stones wall; house fronts, not houses fronts; goods van, not good van, etc. However, that observation leads us nowhere. It is quite possible to argue that the first element is a noun, capable of number distinctions, but always appearing in a definite number form when making part of that phrase. So the application of criterion (1) proves to be inconclusive. As to criterion (2), we also run into difficulties. If, for example, we take the phrase the Einstein theory and ask whether the first element can take the possessive form, we shall have to concede that of course it can; thus the phrase Einstein's theory is quite possible, and indeed, it occurs in actual texts. However, those who hold that it is not a noun, but either an adjective or an attributive noun (meaning a special part of speech) argue that the word in the phrase the Einstein theory is not the same word as in the phrase Einstein's theory and that the word in the first of these groups is incapable of taking a possessive form. Thus, it appears to be impossible to come to a definite conclusion on the basis of this criterion. Now we proceed to criterion (3). How are we to decide whether the word Einstein in the former group denotes a substance or a property? There seems to be no perfectly convincing argument either way. We might say that it denotes a substance but this substance only serves to characterise the property of the thing denoted by the noun.

Thus, we reach the conclusion that no perfectly objective result can be attained in trying to determine what part of speech the first element in such phrases is. This explains the existing difference of views on the subject and we are compelled to recognise that the question can only be solved in a somewhat subjective way, according as we start from one premise or another. If we start from the premise that we shall not speak of homonyms, or indeed new parts of speech, unless this is made strictly necessary by indisputable facts, we will stick to the view that the first element of such phrases as stone watt or speech sound is a noun in a special syntactical function. It is this view that appears to be the most plausible,

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