The characteristic features of the adjective as a part of speech are as follows:
1. their lexical-grammatical meaning of attributes or we may say that they express property of things /persons/;
2. from the morphological view point they have the category of degrees of comparison;
3. from the point of view of their combinality they combine with nouns. To put it more precisely adjectives modify nouns but they can combine with adverbs (The sun rose extremely red.), link verbs (The horse is white.) and the word “one”.
5. their syntactic functions are: attribute and predicative
It is important to point out that in the function of an attribute the adjectives are in most cases used in pre-position; in post- position they are very seldom: time immemorial; chance to come.
According to the way of nomination adjectives are divided into: qualitative and relative.
Relative adjectives describe properties of a substance through relation to materials (wooden), place (Northern), time (daily), some action (defensive) or relationship (friendly).
Qualitative adjectives may be differentiated according to their meaning into descriptive (light, cold), denoting a quality in a broad sense and limiting (previous, left), denoting a specific category, a part of a whole, a sequence of order, a number. Limiting adjectives single out the object or substance, specify it and therefore can seldom be replaced by other adjectives of similar meaning.
H. Sweet divides adjectives into: attributive (e.g. a great man) and qualifying (e.g. great stupidity).
According to the evaluative function all the adjective functions may be grammatically divided into “evaluative” (nice, bad) and “specificative” (wooden, motherly).
According to their morphological composition adjectives can be subdivided into simple (new, fresh), derived (spotless, careful) and compound (deaf-mute).
The category of comparison of adjectives shows the absolute or relative quality of a substance.
The Grammatical Category of Degrees of Comparison
Not all the adjectives of the English language have the degrees of comparison. From this point of view they fall under two types:
1) comparable adjectives
2) non-comparable adjectives
The non-comparable adjectives are relative ones like golden, wooden, silk, cotton, raw and so on.
The comparable ones are qualitative adjectives. The grammatical category of degrees of comparison is the opposition of three individual meanings:
1) positive degree
2) comparative degree
3) superlative degree
The common or basic degree is called positive which is expressed by the absence of a marker. Therefore we say that it is expressed by a zero morpheme. So far as to the comparative and superlative degrees they have special material means. At the same time we’ll have to admit that not all the qualitative adjectives form their degrees in the similar way. From the point of view of forming of the comparative and superlative degrees of comparison the qualitative adjectives must be divided into four groups. They are:
1) One and some two syllabic adjectives that form their degrees by the help of inflections -
er and -est respectively,
short - shorter - the shortest
strong - stronger - the strongest
pretty - prettier - the prettiest
2) The adjectives which form their degrees by means of root-vowel and final consonant change:
many - more - the most
much - more - the most
little - less - the least
far - further - the furthest
(farther - the farthest)
3) The adjectives that form their degrees by means of suppletion
good - better - the best
bad - worse - the worst
Note: The two adjectives form their degrees by means of suppletion. It concerns only of the comparative degree (good - better; bad - worse). The suppletive degrees of these adjectives are formed by root - vowel and final consonant change (better - the best) and by adding “t” to the form of the comparative degree (in worse - the worst).
4) Many - syllabic adjectives which form their degrees by means of the words "more" and
"most": interesting - more interesting - the most interesting
beautiful - more beautiful - the most beautiful
Some authors treat «more/ the most + adjective» not as a lexical way of formation of the degrees of comparison but as analytical forms. Their arguments are as follows:
1. More and -er identical as to their meaning of “higher degree”;
2. Their distribution is complementary. Together they cover all the adjectives having the degree of comparison.
Khaimovich and Rogovskaya: “One must not forget that more and most are not only wordmorphemes of comparison. They can also be notional words. Moreover they are poly- semantic and poly-functional words. One of the meanings of most is “very, exceedingly”. It is in this meaning that the word most is used in the expression a most interesting book".
However, the combination «more/ the most + adjective» can’t be considered as an analytical form as:
1) these words retain lexical meaning:
a) they can be opposed to less, the least;
b) more can be repeated for the emphasis: : e.g. more and more difficult
2) these words retain syntactical (adverbial) relations with adjectives e.g. more attractive (how?)
Substantivization of Adjectives
As is known adjectives under certain circumstances can be substantivized, i.e. become nouns. B. Khaimovich speaks of two types of substantivization full and partial. By full substantivization he means when an adjective gets all the morphological features of nouns: number, case, article determination, e.g.: privates, natives, private’s, native’s, a private, the private, etc. (Cf.: similar substantivation cases in Russian: ðÿäîâîé, áîëüíîé, etc.)
By partial substantivization he means when adjectives get only some of the morphological features of nouns, e.g. the adjective “rich” having substantivized can be used only with the definite article: the rich. Partially substantivized adjectives are characterized by mixed (hybrid) lexico-grammatical features: they convey the mixed adjectival-nounal semantics of property; in a sentence they perform functions characteristic of nouns; and they have deficient paradigms of number and article determination (they are not changed according to the category of number and are combined only with the definite article). They include words denoting groups of people sharing the same feature – the rich, the beautiful, the English, and words denoting abstract notions – the unforgettable, the invisible, etc. The former resemble the pluralia tantum nouns, and the latter the singularia tantum nouns. They make up a specific group of adjectives marginal to the nouns and can be called “adjectivids” by analogy with “verbids”.
Among the words denoting substantive properties there is a set of words denoting states, mostly temporary states, that are used predominantly in the predicative function and are united by a common formal mark, the prefix ‘a-’, e.g.: afraid, afire, alike, etc. (cf.: the suffix ‘-o’ in Russian - õîëîäíî, òåïëî, âåñåëî, etc.) Their part of speech status is rather problematic. Traditionally they are referred to as “predicative adjectives” or a subtype of adverbs. In Russian linguistics such linguists as L. V. Scherba, V. V.Vinogradov and others state that these words constitute a separate class of words, a part of speech called “the category of state words”, or “statives”; their status as a separate part of speech in English is supported by B. Ilyish. There are some arguments, though, which may challenge this point of view.
· Semantically the statives have no categorial meaning of their own: adjectives denote not just qualities but, as was shown above, properties of substances, and that includes stative properties too; the statives are not at all unique semantically, the same meaning can be rendered by regular adjectives, e.g.: cases alike = similar cases.
· They have the same adverbial combinability and combinability with link verbs as regular adjectives, e.g.: The cases are absolutely alike.
· The similarity of functions can be demonstrated in coordinative groups of homogeneous notional sentence parts expressed by statives and regular adjectives, e.g.: Both cases are very much alike and highly suspicious.
· As with regular adjectives, they can be used in an evaluative function in a limited number of contexts and can even form the degrees of comparison, e.g.: These cases are more alike than the others.
· The prefix ‘a-’ can not serve as sufficient grounds for singling out this group of words in English, because in English there are statives which have no such prefix, e.g.: sorry, glad, ill, worth, etc. (The suffix ‘-o’ is not a unifying property of the statives in Russian either, cf.: æàëü, ëåíü, etc.)
· Besides, it is a closed set of words and rather a restricted one: there are no more than 50-80 words in this group; it is not characterized by openness, like all the other notional parts of speech.
Thus, we can infer that words denoting states, though possessing important structural and functional peculiarities, are not a separate part of speech, but a specific subset within the general class of adjectives.