Рефераты. Adjective

connected with the functional division of adjectives into evaluative and

specificative, Like common adjectives, statives are subject to this

flexible division, and so in principle they are included into the

expression of the quantitative estimation of the corresponding properties

conveyed by them. True, statives do not take the synthetical forms of the

degrees of comparison, but they are capable of expressing comparison

analytically, in cases where it is to be expressed.

Cf.: Of us all, Jack was the one most aware of the delicate situation in

which we found ourselves. I saw that the adjusting lever stood far more

askew than was allowed by the directions.

Fifth, quantitative considerations, though being a subsidiary factor

of reasoning, tend to support the conjoint part-of-speech interpretation of

statives and common adjectives. Indeed, the total number of statives does

not exceed several dozen (a couple of dozen basic, "stable" units and,

probably, thrice as many "unstable" words of the nature of coinages for the

nonce). This number is negligible in comparison with the number of words of

the otherwise identified notional parts of speech, each of them counting

thousands of units. Why, then, an honour of the part-of-speech status to be

granted to a small group of words not differing in their fundamental lexico-

grammatical features from one of the established large word-classes?

As for the set-forming prefix a-, it hardly deserves a serious

consideration as a formal basis of the part-of-speech identification of

statives simply because formal features cannot be taken in isolation from

functional features. Moreover, as is known, there are words of property not

distinguished by this prefix, which display essential functional

characteristics inherent in the stative set. In particular, here belong

such adjectives as ill, well, glad, sorry, worth (while), subject (to), due

(to), underway, and some others. On the other hand, among the basic

statives we find such as can hardly be analysed into a genuine combination

of the type "prefix + root", because their morphemic parts have become

fused into one indivisible unit in the course of language history, e.g.

aware, afraid, aloof.

Thus, the undertaken semantic and functional analysis shows that

statives, though forming a unified set of words, do not constitute a

separate lexemic class existing in language on exactly the same footing as

the noun, the verb, the adjective, the adverb; rather it should be looked

upon as a subclass within the general class of adjectives. It is

essentially an adjectival subclass, because, due to their peculiar

features, statives are not directly opposed to the notional parts of speech

taken together, but are quite particularly opposed to the rest of

adjectives. It means that the general subcategorization of the class of

adjectives should be effected on the two levels: on the upper level the

class will be divided into the subclass of stative adjectives and common

adjectives; on the lower level the common adjectives fall into qualitative

and relative, which division has been discussed in the foregoing paragraph.

As we see, our final conclusion about the lexico-grammatical nature of

statives appears to have returned them into the lexemic domain in which

they were placed by traditional grammar and from which they were alienated

in the course of subsequent linguistic investigations. A question then

arises, whether these investigations, as well as the discussions

accompanying them, have served any rational purpose at all.

The answer to this question, though, can only be given in the

energetic affirmative. Indeed, all the detailed studies of statives

undertaken by quite a few scholars, all the discussions concerning their

systemic location and other related matters have produced very useful

results, both theoretical and practical.

The traditional view of the stative was not supported by any special

analysis, it was formed on the grounds of mere surface analogies and outer

correlations. The later study of statives resulted in the exposition of

their inner properties, in the discovery of their historical productivity

as a subclass, in their systemic description on the lines of competent

inter-class and inter-level comparisons. And it is due to the undertaken

investigations (which certainly will be continued) that we are now in a

position, though having rejected the fundamental separation of the stative

from the adjective, to name the subclass of statives as one of the

peculiar, idiomatic lexemic features of Modern English.

As is widely known, adjectives display the ability to be easily

substantivized by conversion, i.e. by zero-derivation. Among the noun-

converted adjectives we find both old units, well-established in the system

of lexicon, and also new ones, whose adjectival etymology conveys to the

lexeme the vivid colouring of a new coinage.

For instance, the words a relative or a white or a dear bear an

unquestionable mark of established tradition, while such a noun as a

sensitive used in the following sentence features a distinct flavour of

purposeful conversion: He was a regional man, a man who wrote about

sensitives who live away from the places where things happen.

Compare this with the noun a high in the following example: The

weather report promises a new high in heat and humidity.

From the purely categorial point of view, however, there is no

difference between the adjectives cited in the examples and the ones given

in the foregoing enumeration, since both groups equally express

constitutive categories of the noun, i.e. the number, the case, the gender,

the article determination, and they likewise equally perform normal nounal


On the other hand, among the substantivized adjectives there is a set

characterized by hybrid lexico-grammatical features, as in the following


The new bill concerning the wage-freeze introduced by the Labour Government

cannot satisfy either the poor, or the rich (Radio Broadcast). A monster.

The word conveyed the ultimate in infamy and debasement inconceivable to

one not native to the times (J. Vance). The train, indulging all his

English nostalgia for the plushy and the genteel, seemed to him a deceit

(M. Bradbury).

The mixed categorial nature of the exemplified words is evident from

their incomplete presentation of the part-of speech characteristics of

either nouns or adjectives. Like nouns, the words are used in the article

form; like nouns, they express the category of number (in a relational

way); but their article and number forms are rigid, being no subject to the

regular structural change inherent in the normal expression of these

categories. Moreover, being categorially unchangeable, the words convey the

mixed adjectival-nounal semantics of property.

The adjectival-nounal words in question are very specific. They are

distinguished by a high productivity and, like statives, are idiomatically

characteristic of Modern English.

On the analogy of verbids these words might be called "adjectivids",

since they are rather nounal forms of adjectives than nouns as such.

The adjectivids fall into two main grammatical subgroups, namely, the

subgroup pluralia tantum {the English, the rich, the unemployed, the

uninitiated, etc.), and the subgroup singularia tantum (the invisible, the

abstract, the tangible, etc.). Semantically, the words of the first

subgroup express sets of people (personal multitudes), while the words of

the second group express abstract ideas of various types and connotations.

The category of adjectival comparison expresses the quantitative

characteristic of the quality of a nounal referent, i.e. it gives a

relative evaluation of the quantity of a quality. The purely relative

nature of the categorial semantics of comparison is reflected in its name.

The category is constituted by the opposition of the three forms known

under the heading of degrees of comparison: the basic form (positive

degree), having no features of corn" parison; the comparative degree form,

having the feature of restricted .superiority (which limits the comparison

to two elements only); the superlative degree form, having the feature of

unrestricted superiority.

It should be noted that the meaning of unrestricted superiority is in-

built in the superlative degree as such, though in practice this form is

used in collocations imposing certain restrictions on the effected

comparison; thus, the form in question may be used to signify restricted

superiority, namely, in cases where a limited number of referents are

compared. Cf.: Johnny was the strongest boy in the company.

As is evident from the example, superiority restriction is shown here

not by the native meaning of the superlative, but by the particular

contextual construction of comparison where the physical strength of one

boy is estimated in relation to that of his companions.

Some linguists approach the number of the degrees of comparison as

problematic on the grounds that the basic form of the adjective does not

express any comparison by itself and therefore should be excluded from the

category. This exclusion would reduce the category to two members only,

i.e. the comparative and superlative degrees.

However, the oppositional interpretation of grammatical categories

underlying our considerations does not admit of such an exclusion; on the

contrary, the non-expression of superiority by the basic form is understood

in the oppositional presentation of comparison as a pre-requisite for the

expression of the category as such. In this expression of the category the

basic form is the unmarked member, not distinguished by any comparison

suffix or comparison auxiliary, while the superiority forms (i.e. the

comparative and superlative) are the marked members, distinguished by the

comparison suffixes or comparison auxiliaries.

That the basic form as the positive degree of comparison does express

this categorial idea, being included in one and the same calegorial series

with the superiority degrees, is clearly shown by its actual uses in

comparative syntactic constructions of equality, as well as comparative

syntactic constructions of negated equality. Cf.: The remark was as bitter

as could be. The Rockies are not so high as the Caucasus.

These constructions are directly correlative with comparative

constructions of inequality built around the comparative and superlative

degree forms. Cf.: That was the bitterest remark I have ever heard from the

man. The Caucasus is higher than the Rockies.

Thus, both formally and semantically, the oppositional basis of the

category of comparison displays a binary nature. In terms of the three

degrees of comparison, on the upper level of presentation the superiority

degrees as the marked member of the opposition are contrasted against the

positive degree as its unmarked member. The superiority degrees, in their

turn, form the opposition of the lower level of presentation, where the

comparative degree features the functionally weak member, and the

superlative degree, respectively, the strong member. The whole of the

double oppositional unity, considered from the semantic angle, constitutes

a gradual ternary opposition.

The synthetical forms of comparison in -er and -(e)st coexist with the

analytical forms of comparison effected by the auxiliaries more and most.

The analytical forms of comparison perform a double function. On the one

hand, they are used with the evaluative adjectives that, due to their

phonemic structure (two-syllable words with the stress on the first

syllable ending in other grapho-phonemic complexes than -er, -y, -le, -ow

or words of more than two-syllable composition) cannot normally take the

synthetical forms of comparison. In this respect, the analytical comparison

forms are in categorial complementary distribution with the synthetical

comparison forms. On the other hand, the analytical forms of comparison, as

different from the synthetical forms, are used to express emphasis, thus

complementing the synthetical forms in the sphere of this important

stylistic connotation. Cf.: The audience became more and more noisy, and

soon the speaker's words were drowned in the general hum of voices.

The structure of the analytical degrees of comparison is meaningfully

overt; these forms are devoid of the feature of "semantic idiomatism"

characteristic of some other categorial analytical forms, such as, for

instance, the forms of the verbal perfect. For this reason the analytical

degrees of comparison invite some linguists to call in question their claim

to a categorial status in English grammar.

In particular, scholars point out the following two factors in support

of the view that the combinations of more/most with the basic form of the

adjective are not the analytical expressions of the morphological category

of comparison, but free syntactic constructions: first, the more/most-

combinations are semantically analogous to combinations of less/least with

the adjective which, in the general opinion, are syntactic combinations of

notional words; second, the most-combination, unlike the synthetic

superlative, can take the indefinite article, expressing not the

superlative, but the elative meaning (i.e. a high, not the highest degree

of the respective quality).

The reasons advanced, though claiming to be based on an analysis of

actual lingual data, can hardly be called convincing as regards their

immediate negative purpose.

Let us first consider the use of the most-combillation with the

indefinite article.

This combination is a common means of expressing elative evaluations

of substance properties. The function of the elative most-construction in

distinction to the function of the superlative most-'construction will be

seen from the following examples:

The speaker launched a most significant personal attack on the Prime

Minister. The most significant of the arguments in a dispute is not

necessarily the most spectacular one.

While the phrase "a most significant (personal) attack" in the first

of the two examples gives the idea of rather a high degree of the quality

expressed irrespective of any directly introduced or implied comparison

with other attacks on the Prime Minister, the phrase "the most significant

of the arguments" expresses exactly the superlative degree of the quality

in relation to the immediately introduced comparison with all the rest of

the arguments in a dispute; the same holds true of the phrase "the most

spectacular one". It is this exclusion of the outwardly superlative

adjective from a comparison that makes it into a simple elative, with its

most-constituent turned from the superlative auxiliary into a kind of a

lexical intensifier.

The definite article with the elative most-construction is also

possible, if leaving the elative function less distinctly recognizable (in

oral speech the elative most is commonly left unstressed, the absence of

stress serving as a negative mark of the elative). Cf.: I found myself in

the most awkward situation, for I couldn't give a satisfactory answer to

any question asked by the visitors.

Now, the synthetical superlative degree, as is known, can be used in

the elative function as well, the distinguishing feature of the latter

being its exclusion from a comparison.


Unfortunately, our cooperation with Danny proved the worst experience for

both of us. No doubt Mr. Snider will show you his collection of minerals

with the greatest pleasure.

And this fact gives us a clue for understanding the expressive nature

of the elative superlative as such — the nature that provides it with a

permanent grammatico-stylistic status in the language. Indeed, the

expressive peculiarity of the form consists exactly in the immediate

combination of the two features which outwardly contradict each other:

the categorial form of the superlative on the one hand, and the absence of

a comparison on the other.

That the categorial form of the superlative (i.e. the superlative with

its general functional specification) is essential also for the expression

of the elative semantics can, however paradoxical it might appear, be very

well illustrated by the elative use of the comparative degree. Indeed, the

comparative combination featuring the dative comparative degree is

constructed in such a way as to place it in the functional position of

unrestricted superiority, i.e. in the position specifically characteristic

of the superlative. E.g.:

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to greet you as our guest of honour.

There is nothing more refreshing than a good swim.

The parallelism of functions between the two forms of comparison (the

comparative degree and the superlative degree) in such and like examples is


As we see, the elative superlative, though it is not the regular

superlative in the grammatical sense, is still a kind of a specific,

grammatically featured construction. This grammatical specification

distinguishes it from common elative constructions which may be generally

defined as syntactic combinations of an intensely high estimation. E.g.:

an extremely important amendment; a matter of exceeding urgency; quite an

unparalleled beauty; etc.

Thus, from a grammatical point of view, the elative superlative,

though semantically it is "elevated", is nothing else but a degraded

superlative, and its distinct featuring mark with the analytical

superlative degree is the indefinite article: the two forms of the

superlative of different functional purposes receive the two different

marks (if not quite rigorously separated in actual uses) by the article

determination treatment.

It follows from the above that the possibility of the most-combination

to be used with the indefinite article cannot in any way be demonstrative

of its non-grammatical character, since the functions of the two

superlative combinations in question, the elative superlative and the

genuine superlative, are different.

Moreover, the use of the indefinite article with the synthetical

superlative in the degraded, dative function is not altogether impossible,

though somehow such a possibility is bluntly denied by certain grammatical

manuals. Cf.: He made a last lame effort to delay the experiment; but Basil

was impervious to suggestion.

But there is one more possibility to formally differentiate the direct

and dative functions of the synthetical superlative, namely, by using the

zero article with the superlative. This latter possibility is noted in some

grammar books (Ganshina, Vasilevskaya, 85). Cf.: Suddenly I was seized with

a sensation of deepest regret.

However, the general tendency of expressing the superlative dative

meaning is by using the analytical form. Incidentally, in the Russian

language the tendency of usage is reverse: it is the synthetical form of

the Russian superlative that is preferred in rendering the dative function.

Cf.: слушали с живейшим интересом; повторялась скучнейшая история; попал в

глупейшее положение и т.д.

Let us examine now the combinations of less/least with the basic form

of the adjective.

As is well known, the general view of these combinations definitely

excludes them from any connection with categorial analytical forms.

Strangely enough, this rejectionist view of the "negative degrees of

comparison" is even taken to support, not to reject the morphological

interpretation of the more/most-combinations.

The corresponding argument in favour of the rejectionist

interpretation consists in pointing out the functional parallelism existing

between the synthetical degrees of comparison and the more/most-

combinations accompanied by their complementary distribution, if not

rigorously pronounced (the different choice of the forms by different

syllabo-phonetical forms of adjectives). The less/least-combinations,

according to this view, are absolutely incompatible with the synthetical

degrees of comparison, since they express not only different, but opposite


Now, it does not require a profound analysis to see that, from the

grammatical point of view, the formula "opposite meaning" amounts to

ascertaining the categorial equality of the forms compared. Indeed, if two

forms express the opposite meanings, then they can only belong to units of

the same general order. And we cannot but agree with B. A. Ilyish's thesis

that "there seems to be no sufficient reason for treating the two sets of

phrases in different ways, saying that 'more difficult' is an analytical

form, while 'less difficult' is not" [Ilyish, 60]. True, the cited author

takes this fact rather as demonstration that both types of constructions

should equally be excluded from the domain of analytical forms, but the

problem of the categorial status of the more/most-combinations has been

analysed above.

Thus, the less/least-combinations, similar to the more/most-

combinations, constitute specific forms of comparison, which may be called

forms of "reverse comparison". The two types of forms cannot be

syntagmatically combined in one and the same form of the word, which shows

the unity of the category of comparison. The whole category includes not

three, but five different forms, making up the two series — respectively,

direct and reverse. Of these, the reverse series of comparison (the reverse

superiority degrees) is of far lesser importance than the direct one, which

evidently can be explained by semantic reasons. As a matter of fact, it is

more natural to follow the direct model of comparison based on the

principle of addition of qualitative quantities than on the reverse model

of comparison based on the principle of subtraction of qualitative

quantities, since subtraction in general is a far more abstract process of

mental activity than addition. And, probably, exactly for the same reason

the reverse comparatives and superlatives are rivalled in speech by the

corresponding negative syntactic constructions.

Having considered the characteristics of the category of comparison,

we can see more clearly the relation to this category of some usually non-

comparable evaluative adjectives.

Outside the immediate comparative grammatical change of the adjective

stand such evaluative adjectives as contain certain comparative sememic

elements in their semantic structures. In particular, as we have mentioned

above, here belong adjectives that are themselves grading marks of

evaluation. Another group of evaluative non-comparables is formed by

adjectives of indefinitely moderated quality, or, tentatively, "moderating

qualifiers", such as whitish, tepid, half-ironical, semi-detached, etc. But

the most peculiar lexemic group of non-comparables is made up by adjectives

expressing the highest degree of a respective quality, which words can

tentatively be called "adjectives of extreme quality", or "extreme

qualifiers", or simply "extremals".

The inherent superlative semantics of extremals is emphasized by the

definite article normally introducing their nounal combinations, exactly

similar to the definite article used with regular collocations of the

superlative degree. Cf.: The ultimate outcome of the talks was encouraging.

The final decision has not yet been made public.

On the other hand, due to the tendency of colloquial speech to

contrastive variation, such extreme qualifiers can sometimes be modified by

intensifying elements. Thus, "the final decision" becomes "a very final

decision"; "the ultimate rejection" turns into "rather an ultimate

rejection"; "the crucial role" is made into "quite a crucial role", etc.

As a result of this kind of modification, the highest grade evaluative

force of these words is not strengthened, but, on the contrary, weakened;

the outwardly extreme qualifiers become degraded extreme qualifiers, even

in this status similar to the regular categorial superlatives degraded in

their elative use.


Ilyish B. “The structure of modern English”, M, 1971

Bloch M. “The course in the English grammar”, M, 1983

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