1. Dixon Where Have All The Adjectives Gone Pdf Michael Buble
  1. Aihara, Masahiko. 2007. Japanese superlative constructions: Evidence for ‘est’-movement. In Proceedings of the 37th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 37), vol. 1, ed. Emily Elfner, and Martin Walkow, 87–100. Amherst: GLSA, University of Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  2. Aihara, Masahiko. 2009. The scope of –est: Evidence from Japanese. Natural Language Semantics 17: 341–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexiadou, Artemis. 2001. Adjective syntax and noun raising: Word order asymmetries in the DP as the result of adjective distribution. Studia Linguistica 55: 217–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker, Mark C. 2003. Lexical categories: Verbs, nouns, and adjectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck, Sigrid, Toshiko Oda, and Koji Sugisaki. 2004. Parametric variation in the semantics of comparison: Japanese vs English. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 13: 289–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Belikova, Alyona. 2008. Syntactically challenged rather than reduced: Participial relatives revisited. In Proceedings of the 2008 annual conference of the Canadian Linguistic Association, 1–15.Google Scholar
  7. Bhatt, Rajesh. 2006. Covert modality in non-finite contexts. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bhatt, Rajesh, and Shoichi Takahashi. 2011. Reduced and unreduced phrasal comparatives. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 29: 581–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bowers, John. 1969. Surface structure interpretation in English superlatives. Master’s Thesis, MIT.Google Scholar
  10. Cinque, Guglielmo. 2010. The syntax of adjectives: A comparative study. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clancy, Patricia. 1985. The acquisition of Japanese. In The crosslinguistic study of language acquisition, vol. 1, ed. Dan I. Slobin, 373–524. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  12. Dixon, R.M.W. 1982. Where have all the adjectives gone?. Berlin: Mouton.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Farkas, Donka F., and Katalin E. Kiss. 2000. On the comparative and absolute reading of superlatives. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 18: 417–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frank, Paul. 1990. Ika syntax. Arlington, TX: SIL and University of Texas, Arlington.Google Scholar
  15. Heim, Irene. 1985. Notes on comparatives and related matters. Master’s Thesis, University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
  16. Heim, Irene. 1999. Notes on superlatives. Master’s Thesis, MIT.Google Scholar
  17. Heim, Irene. 2001. Degree operators and scope. In Audiatur Vox Sapientiae: A festschrift for Arnim von Stechow, ed. Caroline Féry, and Wolfgang Sternefeld, 214–239. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.Google Scholar
  18. Howard, Edwin. 2008. Superlatives, NPIs and Strawson-entailment. Honours Thesis, McGill University.Google Scholar
  19. Huang, C.-T. James. 1982. Logical relations in Chinese and the theory of grammar, Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
  20. Jackendoff, Ray. 1972. Semantic interpretation in generative grammar. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Jacobs, Roderick A., and Peter S. Rosenbaum. 1968. English Transformational Grammar. Waltham, Mass.: Ginn.Google Scholar
  22. Kayne, Richard. 1994. The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. Kennedy, Christopher. 2007. Modes of comparison. In Proceedings of CLS 43, ed. Malcolm Elliott, James Kirby, Osamu Sawada, Eleni Staraki, and Suwon Yoon. Chicago: University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  24. Kim, Min-Joo. 2002a. Does Korean have adjectives? MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 43, ed. T. Ionin et al., 71–89. Cambridge, Mass.: MITWPL.Google Scholar
  25. Kim, Min-Joo. 2002b. The absence of adjectives and noun modification in Korean. In Proceedings of the 2002 international conference on Korean Linguistics. Seoul: Hankwuk Mwunhwasa.Google Scholar
  26. Kuno, Susumu. 1973. The structure of the Japanese language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kusumoto, Kiyomi. 1999. Tense in embedded contexts. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.Google Scholar
  28. Kusumoto, Kiyomi. 2002. The semantics of the non-past -ta in Japanese. In Proceedings of the third formal approaches to Japanese linguistics, 163–180. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 41. Cambridge, Mass.: MITWPL.Google Scholar
  29. Larson, Richard. 1999. Semantics of adjectival modification. Lecture notes. Amsterdam: LOT Winter School.Google Scholar
  30. Larson, Richard, and Naoko Takahashi. 2007. Order and interpretation in prenominal relative clauses. In Proceedings of the second workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics, ed. M. Kelepir and B. Öztürk, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 54. Cambridge, Mass.: MITWPL.Google Scholar
  31. Larson, Richard, and Hiroko Yamakido. 2008. Ezafe and the deep position of nominal modifiers. In Adjectives and adverbs: Syntax, semantics, and discourse, ed. L. McNally, and C. Kennedy, 43–70. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lasnik, Howard, and Mamoru Saito. 1992. Move: conditions on its application and output. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  33. Lyu, H.-Y. 2004. Focus and superlative center in Korean. Presentation handout for LIN 393: Seminar on Noun Phrase Modification, University of Texas at Austin.Google Scholar
  34. Makino, Seiichi, and Michio Tsutsui. 1986. A dictionary of Japanese grammar. Tokyo: Japan Times.Google Scholar
  35. Miyagawa, Shigeru. 1984. Lexical categories in Japanese. Lingua 73: 29–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Miyagawa, Shigeru. 2008. Genitive subjects in Altaic. In Proceedings of the workshop on Altaic Formal Linguistics 4, MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 56. Cambridge, Mass.: MITWPL.Google Scholar
  37. Murasugi, Keiko. 1991. Noun phrases in Japanese and English: A study in syntax, learnability and acquisition. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Connecticut.Google Scholar
  38. Nishiyama, Kunio. 1999. Adjectives and the copulas in Japanese. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 8: 183–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nishiyama, Kunio. 2005. Morphological boundaries of Japanese adjectives: Reply to Namai. Linguistic Inquiry 36: 134–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ogihara, Toshiyuki. 2004. Adjectival relatives. Linguistics and Philosophy 27: 557–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Paul, Waltraud. 2005. Adjectival modification in Mandarin Chinese and related issues. Linguistics 43: 757–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rice, Keren. 1989. A grammar of slave. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  43. Richards, Norvin. 2008. Wh-questions. In The Oxford handbook of Japanese linguistics, ed. Shigeru Miyagawa, and Mamoru Saito, 348–371. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Ross, J.R. 1964. A partial grammar of English superlatives. MA thesis, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  45. Ross, J.R. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.Google Scholar
  46. Sharvit, Yael, and Penka Stateva. 2002. Superlative expressions, context, and focus. Linguistics and Philosophy 23: 453–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shibatani, Masayoshi. 1978. Nihongo no bunseki [Analysis of Japanese]. Tokyo: Taishukan.Google Scholar
  48. Shimoyama, Junko. 2008. Indeterminate pronouns. In The Oxford handbook of Japanese linguistics, ed. Shigeru Miyagawa, and Mamoru Saito, 372–393. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Shimoyama, Junko. 2011. Degree quantification and the size of noun modifiers. In Japanese/Korean linguistics, vol. 18, ed. William McClure, and Marcel den Dikken, 356–367. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  50. Shimoyama, Junko. 2012. Reassessing crosslinguistic variation in clausal comparatives. Natural Language Semantics 20: 83–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Smith, Carlota S. 1961. A class of complex modifiers in English. Language 37: 342–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Smith, Carlota S. 1964. Determiners and relative clauses in a generative grammar of English. Language 40: 37–52. (Reprinted in Modern Studies in English, ed. D.A. Reibel and S.A. Schane, 1969), 247–263. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.)Google Scholar
  53. Sproat, Richard, and Chilin Shih. 1991. The cross-linguistic distribution of adjective ordering restrictions. In Interdisciplinary approaches to language: Essays in honor of S.-Y. Kuroda, ed. C. Georgopoulos and R. Ishihara, 565–593. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  54. Sudo, Yasutada. 2009. Invisible degree nominals in Japanese clausal comparatives. In Proceedings of the 5th workshop on Altaic formal linguistics, ed. Reiko Vermeulen and Ryosuke Shibagaki. Cambridge, Mass.: MITWPL.Google Scholar
  55. Szabolcsi, Anna. 1986. Comparative superlatives. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 8, ed. Naoki Fukui et al., 245–265. Cambridge, Mass.: MITWPL.Google Scholar
  56. Szabolcsi, Anna. 1994. The noun phrase. In Syntax and semantics, vol. 27: The syntactic structure of Hungarian, ed. Ferenc Kiefer and Katalin É. Kiss, 179–274. San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  57. Teodorescu, Alexandra. 2006. Adjective ordering restrictions revisited. In Proceedings of the 25th west coast conference on formal linguistics, ed. Donald Baumer, David Montero, and Michael Scanlon, 399–407. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.Google Scholar
  58. Urushibara, Saeko. 1993. Syntactic categories and extended projections in Japanese. Ph.D. dissertation, Brandeis University.Google Scholar
  59. Vander Klok, Jozina. 2009a. Direct adjectival modification in Javanese. In Proceedings of the sixteenth meeting of the Austronesian Formal Linguistics Association (AFLA 16), ed. Sandy Chung, Daniel Finer, Ileana Paul, and Eric Potsdam, 211–225. http://westernlinguistics.ca/afla/meetings/afla16/proceedings.htm.
  60. Vander Klok, Jozina. 2009b. Indirect modification in Javanese: Evidence from attributive comparatives. In Proceedings of the 45th annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society (CLS 45), 625–639. Chicago: University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  61. Vander Klok, Jozina. To appear. On the nature of adjectival modification: A case study in Javanese. In Proceedings of the 40th annual meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 40), GLSA, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.Google Scholar
  62. Whitman, John. 1981. The internal structure of NP in verb final languages. In Proceedings of the 17th annual meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society(CLS 17), 411–418. Chicago: University of Chicago.Google Scholar
  63. Whorf, Benjamin Lee. 1945. Grammatical categories. Language 21: 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yamakido, Hiroko. 2005. The nature of adjectival inflection in Japanese. Ph.D. dissertation, Stony Brook University.Google Scholar
  1. PDF Download Where Have All The Adjectives Gone Books For free written by Robert M. Dixon and has been published by Mouton De Gruyter this book supported file pdf, txt, epub, kindle and other format this book has been release on 1982 with Language Arts & Disciplines categories.
  2. Where Have all the Adjectives Gone? Bond, Michael Harris & Peter B. Dixon, R.M.W. Deriving verbs in English.

Where have all the adjectives gone?: and other essays in semantics and syntax Robert M. Dixon Snippet view - 1982.

(Redirected from Adjectival form)
  • That's an interesting idea. (attributive)
  • That idea is interesting. (predicative)
  • Tell me something interesting. (postpositive)
  • The good, the bad, and the ugly. (substantive)
Part of a series on
English grammar
Prefixes (in English)
Suffixes (frequentative)
Adverbs (flat)
Prepositions (in English)
Pronouns (case · person)
Auxiliaries and contractions
Mood (conditional · imperative · subjunctive)
Aspect (continuous · habitual · perfect)
Irregular verbs
Modal verbs
Passive voice
Phrasal verbs
Verb usage
Transitive and intransitive verbs
Clauses (in English)
Conditional sentences
African-American Vernacular English
American and British English grammatical differences
Double negatives
Grammar disputes

Dixon Where Have All The Adjectives Gone Pdf Michael Buble

In linguistics, an adjective (abbreviatedadj) is word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or noun phrase. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun.

Adjectives are one of the main parts of speech of the English language, although historically they were classed together with nouns.[1] Certain words that were traditionally considered to be adjectives, including the, this, my, etc., are today usually classed separately, as determiners.


Adjective comes from Latinnōmen adjectīvum,[2] a calque of Ancient Greek: ἐπίθετον ὄνομα, romanized: epítheton ónoma, lit.'additional noun'.[3][4] In the grammatical tradition of Latin and Greek, because adjectives were inflected for gender, number, and case like nouns (a process called declension), they were considered a type of noun. The words that are today typically called nouns were then called substantive nouns (nōmen substantīvum).[5] The terms noun substantive and noun adjective were formerly used in English but are now obsolete.[1]

Types of use[edit]


A given occurrence of an adjective can generally be classified into one of three kinds of use:

  1. Attributive adjectives are part of the noun phrase headed by the noun they modify; for example, happy is an attributive adjective in 'happy people'. In some languages, attributive adjectives precede their nouns; in others, they follow; and in yet others, it depends on the adjective or on its exact relationship to the noun. In English, attributive adjectives usually precede their nouns in simple phrases but follow when they are modified or qualified by a phrase acting as an adverb. For example: compare 'I saw three happykids' with 'I saw three kidshappy enough to jump up and down with glee.' See also Postpositive adjective.
  2. Predicative adjectives are linked via a copula or other linking mechanism to the noun or pronoun they modify; for example, happy is a predicate adjective in 'they are happy' and in 'that made me happy.' (See also: Predicative expression, Subject complement.)
  3. Nominal adjectives act almost as nouns. One way this happens is by eliding a noun that leaves behind its attributive adjective. In the sentence, 'I read two books to them; he preferred the sad book, but she preferred the happy', happy is a nominal adjective, short for 'happy one' or 'happy book'. Another way this happens is in phrases like 'out with the old, in with the new', where 'the old' means 'that which is old' or 'all that is old', and similarly with 'the new'. In such cases, the adjective may function as a mass noun (as in the preceding example). In English, it may also function as a plural count noun denoting a collective group, as in 'The meek shall inherit the Earth', where 'the meek' means 'those who are meek' or 'all who are meek'.


Adjectives feature as a part of speech (word class) in most languages. In some languages, the words that serve the semantic function of adjectives are categorized together with some other class, such as nouns or verbs. In the phrase 'a Ford car', 'Ford' is unquestionably a noun but its function is adjectival: to modify 'car'. In some languages adjectives can function as nouns: for example, the Spanish phrase 'uno rojo' means 'a red [one]'.

As for 'confusion' with verbs, rather than an adjective meaning 'big', a language might have a verb that means 'to be big' and could then use an attributive verb construction analogous to 'big-being house' to express what in English is called a 'big house'. Such an analysis is possible for the grammar of Standard Chinese, for example.

Different languages do not use adjectives in exactly the same situations. For example, where English uses 'to be hungry' (hungry being an adjective), Dutch, French, and Spanish use 'honger hebben', 'avoir faim', and 'tener hambre' respectively (literally 'to have hunger', the words for 'hunger' being nouns). Similarly, where Hebrew uses the adjective זקוק‎ (zaqūq, roughly 'in need of'), English uses the verb 'to need'.

In languages that have adjectives as a word class, it is usually an open class; that is, it is relatively common for new adjectives to be formed via such processes as derivation. However, Bantu languages are well known for having only a small closed class of adjectives, and new adjectives are not easily derived. Similarly, native Japanese adjectives (i-adjectives) are considered a closed class (as are native verbs), although nouns (an open class) may be used in the genitive to convey some adjectival meanings, and there is also the separate open class of adjectival nouns (na-adjectives).


Many languages (including English) distinguish between adjectives, which qualify nouns and pronouns, and adverbs, which mainly modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Not all languages make this exact distinction; many (including English) have words that can function as either. For example, in English, fast is an adjective in 'a fast car' (where it qualifies the noun car) but an adverb in 'he drove fast' (where it modifies the verb drove).

In Dutch and German, adjectives and adverbs are usually identical in form and many grammarians do not make the distinction, but patterns of inflection can suggest a difference:

Eine kluge neue Idee.
A clever new idea.
Eine klug ausgereifte Idee.
A cleverly developed idea.

A German word like klug ('clever(ly)') takes endings when used as an attributive adjective but not when used adverbially. (It also takes no endings when used as a predicative adjective: er ist klug, 'he is clever'.) Whether these are distinct parts of speech or distinct usages of the same part of speech is a question of analysis. It can be noted that, while German linguistic terminology distinguishes adverbiale from adjektivische Formen, German refers to both as Eigenschaftswörter ('property words').


Linguists today distinguish determiners from adjectives, considering them to be two separate parts of speech (or lexical categories). But formerly determiners were considered to be adjectives in some of their uses.[Notes 1] Determiners are words that are neither nouns nor pronouns, yet reference a thing already in context. They generally do this by indicating definiteness (a vs. the), quantity (one vs. some vs. many), or another such property.

Adjective phrases[edit]

An adjective acts as the head of an adjective phrase or adjectival phrase (AP). In the simplest case, an adjective phrase consists solely of the adjective; more complex adjective phrases may contain one or more adverbs modifying the adjective ('very strong'), or one or more complements (such as 'worth several dollars', 'full of toys', or 'eager to please'). In English, attributive adjective phrases that include complements typically follow the noun that they qualify ('an evildoer devoid of redeeming qualities').

Other modifiers of nouns[edit]

In many languages (including English) it is possible for nouns to modify other nouns. Unlike adjectives, nouns acting as modifiers (called attributive nouns or noun adjuncts) usually are not predicative; a beautiful park is beautiful, but a car park is not 'car'. The modifier often indicates origin ('Virginia reel'), purpose ('work clothes'), semantic patient ('man eater') or semantic subject ('child actor'); however, it may generally indicate almost any semantic relationship. It is also common for adjectives to be derived from nouns, as in boyish, birdlike, behavioral (behavioural), famous, manly, angelic, and so on.

Many languages have special verbal forms called participles that can act as noun modifiers (alone or as the head of a phrase). Sometimes participles develop into pure adjectives. Examples in English include relieved (the past participle of the verb relieve, used as an adjective in sentences such as 'I am so relieved to see you'), spoken (as in 'the spoken word'), and going (the present participle of the verb go, used as an adjective in such phrases as 'the going rate').

Other constructs that often modify nouns include prepositional phrases (as in 'a rebel without a cause'), relative clauses (as in 'the man who wasn't there'), and infinitive phrases (as in 'a cake to die for'). Some nouns can also take complements such as content clauses (as in 'the idea that I would do that'), but these are not commonly considered modifiers. For more information about possible modifiers and dependents of nouns, see Components of noun phrases.


In many languages, attributive adjectives usually occur in a specific order. In general, the adjective order in English can be summarised as: opinion, size, age or shape, colour, origin, material, purpose. This sequence (with age preceding shape) is sometimes referred to by the mnemonic OSASCOMP.[6][7][8] Other language authorities, like the Cambridge Dictionary, state that shape precedes rather than follows age.[6][9][10]

Determiners—articles, numerals and other limiters (e.g. three blind mice)—come before attributive adjectives in English. Although certain combinations of determiners can appear before a noun, they are far more circumscribed than adjectives in their use—typically, only a single determiner would appear before a noun or noun phrase (including any attributive adjectives).

  1. Opinion – limiter adjectives (e.g. a real hero, a perfect idiot) and adjectives of subjective measure (e.g. beautiful, interesting) or value (e.g. good, bad, costly)
  2. Size – adjectives denoting physical size (e.g. tiny, big, extensive)
  3. Age – adjectives denoting age (e.g., young, old, new, ancient, six-year-old)
  4. Shape – adjectives describing more detailed physical attributes than overall size (e.g. round, sharp, swollen)
  5. Colour – adjectives denoting colour (e.g. white, black, pale)
  6. Origin – denominal adjectives denoting source (e.g. French, volcanic, extraterrestrial)
  7. Material – denominal adjectives denoting what something is made of (e.g., woollen, metallic, wooden)
  8. Qualifier/purpose – final limiter, which sometimes forms part of the (compound) noun (e.g., rocking chair, hunting cabin, passenger car, book cover)

This means that, in English, adjectives pertaining to size precede adjectives pertaining to age ('little old', not 'old little'), which in turn generally precede adjectives pertaining to colour ('old white', not 'white old'). So, one would say 'One (quantity) nice (opinion) little (size) old (age) round (shape) [or round old] white (colour) brick (material) house.' When several adjectives of the same type are used together, they are ordered from general to specific, like 'lovely intelligent person' or 'old medieval castle'.[6]

This order may be more rigid in some languages than others; in some, like Spanish, it may only be a default (unmarked) word order, with other orders being permissible. Other languages, such as Tagalog, follow their adjectival orders as rigidly as English.

The normal adjectival order of English may be overridden in certain circumstances, especially when one adjective is being fronted. In addition, the usual order of adjectives in English would result in the phrase 'the bad big wolf' (opinion before size), but instead the usual phrase is 'the big bad wolf', perhaps because the ablaut reduplication rule that high vowels precede low vowels overrides the normal order of adjectives.

Owing partially to borrowings from French, English has some adjectives that follow the noun as postmodifiers, called postpositive adjectives, as in time immemorial and attorney general. Adjectives may even change meaning depending on whether they precede or follow, as in proper: They live in a proper town (a real town, not a village) vs. They live in the town proper (in the town itself, not in the suburbs). All adjectives can follow nouns in certain constructions, such as tell me something new.

Comparison (degrees)[edit]

In many languages, some adjectives are comparable and the measure of comparison is called degree. For example, a person may be 'polite', but another person may be 'more polite', and a third person may be the 'most polite' of the three. The word 'more' here modifies the adjective 'polite' to indicate a comparison is being made, and 'most' modifies the adjective to indicate an absolute comparison (a superlative).

Among languages that allow adjectives to be compared, different means are used to indicate comparison. Some languages do not distinguish between comparative and superlative forms.

In English, many adjectives can be inflected to comparative and superlative forms by taking the suffixes '-er' and '-est' (sometimes requiring additional letters before the suffix; see forms for far below), respectively:

'great', 'greater', 'greatest'
'deep', 'deeper', 'deepest'

Some adjectives are irregular in this sense:

'good', 'better', 'best'
'bad', 'worse', 'worst'
'many', 'more', 'most' (sometimes regarded as an adverb or determiner)
'little', 'less', 'least'

Some adjectives can have both regular and irregular variations:

'old', 'older', 'oldest'
'far', 'farther', 'farthest'


'old', 'elder', 'eldest'
'far', 'further', 'furthest'

Another way to convey comparison is by incorporating the words 'more' and 'most'. There is no simple rule to decide which means is correct for any given adjective, however. The general tendency is for simpler adjectives and those from Anglo-Saxon to take the suffixes, while longer adjectives and those from French, Latin, or Greek do not—but sometimes sound of the word is the deciding factor.

Dixon where have all the adjectives gone pdf michael buble

Many adjectives do not naturally lend themselves to comparison. For example, some English speakers would argue that it does not make sense to say that one thing is 'more ultimate' than another, or that something is 'most ultimate', since the word 'ultimate' is already absolute in its semantics. Such adjectives are called non-comparable or absolute. Nevertheless, native speakers will frequently play with the raised forms of adjectives of this sort. Although 'pregnant' is logically non-comparable (either one is pregnant or not), one may hear a sentence like 'She looks more and more pregnant each day'. Likewise 'extinct' and 'equal' appear to be non-comparable, but one might say that a language about which nothing is known is 'more extinct' than a well-documented language with surviving literature but no speakers, while George Orwell wrote, 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others'. These cases may be viewed as evidence that the base forms of these adjectives are not as absolute in their semantics as is usually thought.

Comparative and superlative forms are also occasionally used for other purposes than comparison. In English comparatives can be used to suggest that a statement is only tentative or tendential: one might say 'John is more the shy-and-retiring type,' where the comparative 'more' is not really comparing him with other people or with other impressions of him, but rather, could be substituting for 'on the whole'. In Italian, superlatives are frequently used to put strong emphasis on an adjective: bellissimo means 'most beautiful', but is in fact more commonly heard in the sense 'extremely beautiful'.


Attributive adjectives, and other noun modifiers, may be used either restrictively (helping to identify the noun's referent, hence 'restricting' its reference) or non-restrictively (helping to describe an already-identified noun). For example:

'He was a lazy sort, who would avoid a difficult task and fill his working hours with easy ones.'
'difficult' is restrictive – it tells us which tasks he avoids, distinguishing these from the easy ones: 'Only those tasks that are difficult'.
'She had the job of sorting out the mess left by her predecessor, and she performed this difficult task with great acumen.'
'difficult' is non-restrictive – we already know which task it was, but the adjective describes it more fully: 'The aforementioned task, which (by the way) is difficult'

In some languages, such as Spanish, restrictiveness is consistently marked; for example, in Spanish la tarea difícil means 'the difficult task' in the sense of 'the task that is difficult' (restrictive), whereas la difícil tarea means 'the difficult task' in the sense of 'the task, which is difficult' (non-restrictive). In English, restrictiveness is not marked on adjectives, but is marked on relative clauses (the difference between 'the man who recognized me was there' and 'the man, who recognized me, was there' being one of restrictiveness).


In some languages, adjectives alter their form to reflect the gender, case and number of the noun that they describe. This is called agreement or concord. Usually it takes the form of inflections at the end of the word, as in Latin:

puella bona(good girl, feminine singular nominative)
puellam bonam(good girl, feminine singular accusative/object case)
puer bonus(good boy, masculine singular nominative)
pueri boni(good boys, masculine plural nominative)

In Celtic languages, however, initial consonant lenition marks the adjective with a feminine singular noun, as in Irish:

buachaill maith(good boy, masculine)
girseach mhaith(good girl, feminine)

Often, distinction is made here between attributive and predicative usage. In English, adjectives never agree, and in French, they always agree. In German, they agree only when they are used attributively, and in Hungarian, they agree only when they are used predicatively:

The good (Ø) boys.The boys are good (Ø).
Les bons garçons.Les garçons sont bons.
Die braven Jungen.Die Jungen sind brav (Ø).
A jó (Ø) fiúk.A fiúk jók.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abTrask, R.L. (2013). Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics. Taylor & Francis. p. 188. ISBN978-1-134-88420-9.
  2. ^adjectivus. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
  3. ^ἐπίθετος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  4. ^Mastronarde, Donald J. Introduction to Attic Greek. University of California Press, 2013. p. 60.
  5. ^McMenomy, Bruce A. Syntactical Mechanics: A New Approach to English, Latin, and Greek. University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. p. 8.
  6. ^ abcOrder of adjectives, British Council.
  7. ^R.M.W. Dixon, 'Where Have all the Adjectives Gone?' Studies in Language 1, no. 1 (1977): 19–80.
  8. ^Dowling, Tim (13 September 2016). 'Order force: the old grammar rule we all obey without realising'. The Guardian. The Guardian.
  9. ^Adjectives: order (from English Grammar Today), in the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary online
  10. ^R. Declerck, A Comprehensive Descriptive Grammar of English (1991), p. 350: 'When there are several descriptive adjectives, they normally occur in the following order: characteristic — size — shape — age — colour — [..]'


  • Dixon, R.M.W. (1977). 'Where have all the adjectives gone?'. Studies in Language. 1: 19–80. doi:10.1075/sl.1.1.04dix.
  • Dixon, R.M.W.; R. E. Asher (Editor) (1993). The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (1st ed.). Pergamon Press Inc. pp. 29–35. ISBN0-08-035943-4.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Dixon, R.M.W. (1999). Adjectives. In K. Brown & T. Miller (Eds.), Concise encyclopedia of grammatical categories (pp. 1–8). Amsterdam: Elsevier. ISBN0-08-043164-X.
  • Warren, Beatrice. (1984). Classifying adjectives. Gothenburg studies in English (No. 56). Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. ISBN91-7346-133-4.
  • Wierzbicka, Anna (1986). 'What's in a noun? (or: How do nouns differ in meaning from adjectives?)'. Studies in Language. 10 (2): 353–389. doi:10.1075/sl.10.2.05wie.
Look up predicative adjective in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Look up adjective in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Cite error: There are <ref group=Notes> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist group=Notes}} template (see the help page).

Retrieved from 'https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Adjective&oldid=914847573'