What Are Adjectives Essay Research Paper The

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What Are Adjectives? Essay, Research Paper The class of adjectives is one of the more problematic ones in English grammar. In order to see what kind of problems and questions we are dealing with we need to address the following two questions: what adjectives are, and how we can recognize them. The most common answer to this question, provided by most grammars, is ‘adjectives modify nouns’ (Pence, Hodges 51, Johnson 31). This answer (or definition) may seem obvious enough but, as Roberts notes, this definition will lead to some serious difficulties. Nouns form their plurals with -s, adjectives modify nouns, but to what class does stone belong in the stone wall? Clearly it is an adjective, it modifies or qualifies wall, but stone also has a plural in stones. Roberts says,

“If we define some parts of speech on the basis of form [nouns forming a plural with -s, MA] and others on the basis of syntax [adjectives modify nouns, MA], we will necessarily find many words which fit two definitions at once.” Not a very satisfying conclusion if you like your parts of speech in neat boxes. Fries offers a different definition. He gets rid of the word adjective and adopts Class 3 words (Class 1 words are (what we call) nouns, Class 2 words are (what we call) verbs). His definition is that a word belongs to Class 3 if it fit into the following formula: The [Class 3 word] [noun] is [Class 3 word]. Good is a Class 3 word because the good student is good. Fries continues by giving a set of three ‘important formal contrasts’ for Class 3 words. Neither his

definition nor his formal contrasts however offer a solution to the problem of the stone wall. Fitting stone wall into his formula gives the stone wall is stone, which is, if not questionable, at least not very obvious. And what about the wooden chair? Is that chair wooden, or wood? His ‘formal contrasts’ don’t provide us with an answer either. Interestingly enough, Palmer doesn’t offer us a definition, he merely says, “another major class [he is talking about Some Traditional Concepts, MA] is the adjective, with two main functions, attributive and predicative, as illustrated by the little boy and the boy is little(p. 59).” But what about the difference between the first Frenchman and the Frenchman was first? Another ‘what are they’ problem, not addressed by every

author under investigation, is what to do with words like my, any, you(r), the, a, each. They seem to be able to make some claim to the status of adjective (as modifying a noun, or identifying it) but seem to have different characteristics and uses. Fries and Johnson don’t treat these words at all when talking about adjectives. Pence and Roberts label them as definitive adjectives and limiting adjectives respectively, and Palmer thinks it’s best to regard these words as belonging to a different class, mainly on the ground that these words are (almost) never used predicatively. These words (articles, possessive pronouns, demonstratives and words like all, some, neither) “are treated today as ‘determinatives’ or ‘determiners’ (p. 59),” and he makes a similar case

for ordinals. Unfortunately he gives us no answer for the difference in meaning between for instance the right girl and the girl was right. For Palmer it is therefore no longer possible to say that adjectives, and only adjectives, modify nouns. As stated before, some authors don’t mention these words at all and in doing so ‘disqualify’ their definition of adjectives as noun-modifiers (esp. Hodges and Johnson), for it is clear that they have some modifying function. Giving a definiton has obvious difficulties, as we have seen. Maybe we can figure out what adjectives are by a formal way: what they look like. Most authors seem to agree on some of the most important features of the form of adjectives. These are usually: a. forming of comparative and superlative with -er and