Adjective: Syntactic functions

June 9th, 20129:46 am


Adjective: Syntactic functions

The main syntactic function of adjectives is that of an attribute. As a rule, attributes expressed by adjectives precede nouns that are modified. However, attributes may also occur in a post-position, which gives them additional emphasis:

A plastic ball, in white and yellow stripes, rolled softly and with decep­tive slowness from one dry tuft of dune-grass to another, not at all unlike a big bored snail, until suddenly a sharper gust of breeze caught it and tossed it bouncing high across the shore. (Bates)

Her brother Simon was a big man, very dark and strong and silent, with the same big eyes as his sister. (Garnett)

The second function of the adjective in the sentence is that of a predica­tive:

Her handwriting was as wavery as Poppy’s. (Tyler) It was too hot, anyway, for the guests to venture outside for so long. (Tyler)

Demeter, her name was, and she was at least partly Greek, with one of those strong, noble Greek faces. (Tyler)

It should be noted that the majority of adjectives may occur in both of the functions, though, for some of them, only one of the functions is pos­sible. For example, the adjectives joint, live, lone, daily, weekly, monthly, woollen and some other are used only attributively: a lone wolf, his monthly letters. The adjectives that denote a state or an attitude are usually used as predicatives: glad, averse (to), bound (for), concerned. The adjectives cer­tain, ill exhibit different meanings depending on their syntactic function: cf. Certain high-profile people are involved in the scandal I am certain they will hush it up; as id luck will have it she is ill.

In relation to the word ill, it should be pointed out that some linguists define it as a stative. Word combinations in which it is used as an attribute are not numerous, besides, they may be qualified as set expressions: ill luck, ill news, it s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

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