Adjective: Morphemic structure

June 8th, 20123:31 pm


Adjective: Morphemic structure

Adjectives as a rule have a suffixational structure and, on the ground of their derivational pattern, are divided into base adjectives and derived adjectives.

Base adjectives are usually monosyllabic, which influences their formal qualities: they form the degrees of comparison by taking inflections -er and -est or by undergoing morphophonemic changes, i.e. they have developed suppletive forms as, for instance, good-better the best, bad worse the worst. It should also be noted that base adjectives serve as stems from which nouns and adverbs are formed by the derivational suffixes -ness and -ly. However, some base adjectives may consist of two syllables but these are not numerous: common, human.

Derived adjectives are formed with the help of derivational suffixes added to free or bound stems. They usually form so-called analytical com­paratives and superlatives by means of the qualifiers more and most. Some of the important adjective-forming suffixes are:

-able added to verbs and bound stems, denoting quality with implication of capacity, fitness or worthiness to be acted upon; the suffix is also used in the sense of ‘tending to’, ‘given to’, ‘favouring’, ‘causing’, ‘able to’ or ‘liable to’. This suffix is a live one and can be added to virtually any verb thus giving rise to many new coinages: readable, teachable, workable. The unproductive variant of the suffix -able is the suffix -ible (visible, compre­hensible, possible);

-(i)al denoting quality (‘belonging to’, ‘pertaining to’, ‘having the char­acter of, ‘appropriate to’) e.g. structural, industrial, commercial, interna­tional. The suffix -al added to nouns and bound stems is often found in combination with the suffix -ic, e.g. philosophical, electrical, typical, etc.;

-ish is a Germanic suffix, denoting nationality, quality with the meaning ‘of the nature of, ‘belonging to’, ‘resembling’; it may also be used with the derogatory sense ‘somewhat like’, often implying contempt, e.g. Swedish, yellowish, childish;

-y is a Germanic suffix, denoting quality (‘pertaining to’, ‘abounding in’, ‘tending or inclined to’), e.g. juicy, milky, bony, hilly.

Other adjective-forming suffixes are -ful (doubtful, careful, resentful) and -less (blameless, shameless, jobless) that are usually added to noun-stems; -ive (excessive, permissive, adhesive) is used to derive adjectives from verbs.

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