Substantivized adjectives

June 9th, 20125:43 pm


Substantivized adjectives

It is known that an adjective denotes a property of some referent ex­pressed by a noun. The property may be that of material, colour, size, position, state, and other characteristics both permanent and temporary. It fol­lows from this that, unlike nouns, adjectives do not possess a full nomina­tive value. The semantically bound character of the adjective is emphasized in English by the use of the substitute one in the absence of the noun, e.g. I preferred a long skirt to a short one. However, adjectives display the abil­ity to be easily substantivized through conversion, i.e. by zero-derivation, and to function in syntactic roles typical of nouns – those of the predicate and the object. Among the noun-converted adjectives one may find both old units, well-established in the language, and also new ones, whose adjectival etymology conveys to the lexeme the vivid colouring of a new coinage. For instance, the words a relative, a black, a dear are unquestionably estab­lished, whereas such a noun as a vulnerable bears the mark of purposeful conversion.

It should be borne in mind that substantivization implies transposition of any part of speech into a noun, i.e. a substantivized word acquires the nounal paradigm. Substantivization is a gradable process, since adjectives may have only one feature of the noun – article determination – and lack the rest of nounal properties, i.e. the case and the plural forms. If it is the case, adjec­tives are used with the definite article and denote, as a rule, a group of peo­ple: the rich, the English, the poor, the green (members of the Green Party).

From the perspective of non-dominant cultural groups the issue is cru­cial. These people are in a numerical minority and their minority status can be aggravated by the poor material conditions in which they live. On top of all this, their cultural orientation might confine them symbolically in a powerless position because they are represented as interchangeable mem­bers of homogeneous groups, a representation that describes the powerless. (Chryssochoou).

Adjectives may also be used in this pattern to denote some abstract, generalized notion: the inevitable, the heavenly, the eternal. Thus, adjec­tives performing syntactic functions of nouns may come very close to either abstract nouns or to plural forms of nouns denoting persons. Therefore these words are characterized as partially substantivized.

Completely substantivized adjectives, in their turn, acquire the entire noun paradigm. Among these are the adjectives captive, criminal, female, fugitive, grown-up, intellectual, male, native, radical, relative and many more (cf. a criminal, two criminals, a criminal s arrest).

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