The paper is devoted to the analysis of semantic processes of denominative relative adjectives in English, which show a varying degree of dependence on the semantics of the original noun. A typical model of semantic derivation of denominative adjectives is either the partial projection of the available secondary values of a noun into a semantic structure of a derivative adjective, or the development of latent semes from the implication of a source word. However, a different situation is possible where the relative denominative adjective acquires meanings that do not depend directly on the semantics of the original noun: secondary meanings develop on the basis of characteristics arising in combination with the word described. The study found that substantive models of semantic derivation are typical for argument-characteristic adjectives that in combination with the described noun represent an argument with a characteristic function: social research, parental care, pediatric congress. In this case, the metaphor is formed on the basis of the available secondary meaning of an adjective (metaphorical or metonymic), more qualitative than relative. The exception among the relative adjectives are substance-characteristic adjectives that in combination with the described noun denote the substance from which the described object is made: wooden cross, silken dress, icy mountain, woolen socks. In this phrase not two arguments but one with its characteristic, the material in this case, cannot be separated from the subject. This brings relative adjectives closer to qualitative ones and allows them sharing characteristic derivation models.
Keywords: Semanticssemantic derivationadjectivesdiachronic approach
The concept “relative adjectives” is widely used in domestic linguistics, but as Raskin and Nierenburg (1995) rightly note, the term is mostly a stranger to English grammars because much, if not the majority, of what relative adjectives do in other languages is done by nouns standing in preposition to another noun. However, the adjectives in English were and still are the subject of serious attention by linguists (Pustet, 2006), and English relative adjectives are regarded by scholars as denominative (Coates, 1971; Levi, 1978), non-predicate (Aarts & Calbert, 1979, Carlson, 1984; Warren, 1984) denoting non-gradable, non-linguistic characteristic (Quirk et al., 1991) and even pseudo-adjectives.
Considering relative denominative adjectives of English, many of the mentioned authors devoted their studies to identifying the relationship between the original noun and the derived adjective. At the same time, it is necessary to describe not only the process of transposition of one part of speech into another, but also the models of semantic modification of a word due to acquisition of the characteristic meaning. Besides, it is important to identify the regularities of updating the components of the value and direction of semantic processes. In this case, it makes sense to turn to the historical aspect of semantic development.
The study is based on the classification of adjectives by Nikitin (1988), who on the basis of denotative-significative characteristics along with qualitative ones identified the subclasses of relative adjectives: argument-predicate and substance-indicative adjectives. substance-indicative adjectives, being derived from nouns, denote the substance of which the denotation of the described noun is made (Cf.:
The hypothesis of the study is that the argument-predicate adjectives depend on the substantive characteristics of the original words and rely on metaphorical and metonymic models of the original noun, whereas the substance-inducative adjectives, despite the derivational nature of their semantics, are able to form secondary meanings according to the predicate model typical for qualitative adjectives.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to identify the specificity of models of semantic derivation of argument-predicate and substance-indicative relative adjectives of English language on the basis of diachronic analysis of their semantic structures.
The technique of generating a generalized lexicographic meaning (Sternin & Rudakova, 2011) is used on the basis of data of several dictionaries and corpora to analyze the semantics of linguistic units.
The analysis of adjective meaning patterns is mainly based on the Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles and the generalization of lexicographic data from online dictionaries of modern English. When necessary, data and typography of the Russian Oxford Dictionary and The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary on Historical Principles were used, as well as the materials of the English Corpora.org: the Corpus of Contemporary American (Davies, 2008), the Corpus of Historical American (Davies, 2010), the British National Corpus (Davies, 2004). Over 100 most frequent (according to the data of the corpus) relative denominative polysemantic adjectives of modern English served the material of the study.
Semantic evolution of argument-predicate adjectives
The argument-predicate relative adjectives in combination with the described nouns represent two arguments, one of which is in predicate function to the other:
The argument-predicate adjective
relating to or covered with flowers; composed of, proceeding from flowers;
smelling or tasting of flowers;
ornamented with figures of flowers;
ornate and florid (of speech); inclined to the use of flowery language.
As various dictionaries show, the original noun in its semantics, in addition to its direct non-derivative meaning, has metaphorical and metonymic meanings. The generalized lexicographic meaning of the noun
the colored part of a plant from which the seed or fruit develops, a plant with flowers, a flower with a stem;
the best, freshest, choicest part of smth.; the finest individuals out of a number of people or things.
the state or time of bloom; season;
an ornamental representation of a flower, etc.
embellishment or ornament of speech; a figure of speech.
The corresponding adjective historically first records the direct relational meaning <related to> with respect to the direct non-derivative meaning of a noun, specified in different discursive options as, for example, <abounding in or covered with flowers>; <producing flowers>
The floury ȝer (orig. florifer annus) (1374).
Come, sit thee downe vpon this flowry bed (1590).
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws The yellow cowslip (1630) (OED, 2016).
The following outdated meaning of an adjective was registered by a dictionary during the Middle English era – <†flourishing, vigorous> – and corresponded to metonymical meaning of a noun
Now age unorne away puttethe favour, That floury youthe in his cesoun conquered (1420) (OED, 2016).
In modern English, as electronic dictionaries and corpus show, this meaning is expressed by French borrowings
Discursive options of <composed of flowers>; <having the nature of flowers>; <proceedings from or characteristic of flowers> extend the relational meaning of the adjective <related to flower(s)> in the New English period without transforming its meaning:
Neighbring Hermon sweated flowry dew (1635).
She viewed the flowery luxuriance of the turf (1671) (OED, 2016).
Historically, the meaning of the adjective
As a flourie verge, to binde The skirts of that same watrie Cloud (1667) (OED, 2016)
The development of the substance metaphor is the metaphorical meaning of the adjective
Thinke you I can a resolution fetch from flowrie tendernesse? (1603).
Certain flowery gentlemen, who told us, in very pretty language that (etc.) (1784).
The answer was plain and practical; not flowery (1824) (OED, 2016).
The adjective in this meaning is represented by some bodies (COCA, BNC) as one of the most frequent. The dictionaries of modern English have a mark “disapproving”, i.e. the meaning of a word was narrowed to ‘saturated’, ‘vitiated’.
Directly following his paean to Darwin from his English monograph (quoted earlier), and as an excuse for such
The meaning marked by modern English dictionaries <smelling or tasting of a flower> is not registered by the historic Oxford English Dictionary (OED, 2016), and in the historical corpus appears only in the 19th century, since the corpus includes texts since 1810:
When a gust of flowery fragrance comes to me, as when I walk by a blossoming bean-field or a field of lucerne, it is always like a new and wonderful experience, a delightful surprise (1922) (COHA).
It can be concluded that the adjective has a later occurrence of this meaning, which is today one of the most frequent, according to the evidence of the corpus of modern American language.
In exploring the development of the semantic structure of the adjective flowery, we come to the conclusion of such a characteristic of its semantics typical for argument-predicate adjectives as the projection of a substantive model of metaphorical and metonymic transformations. The characteristic nature of the adjective provides for the development of a variety of discursive meanings differently implementing the relations of denotations of the original name and the word described.
Analyzing a significant number of argument-predicate adjectives in a similar manner it can be concluded that this subclass of relative denominative derivatives shows a direct dependence of its meanings, both primary and secondary, on semantic structures of original nouns.
Dynamics of semantic development of substance-indicative adjectives
The study of semantic processes of substance-indicative adjectives shows the uniqueness of semantics of this group of relative adjectives. These adjectives denote the substance (material, substance) and, in combination with nouns, like qualitative ones, represent the argument-predicate unity:
It is interesting to analyze the adjective
That dreamed of Imagery, whose head was gold, brest siluer, brassie thigh (1599) (OED).
Metaphorical meanings of the adjective develop based on the similarity of a matter which in terms of its hardness can be compared to copper. The meaning <hard as brass> with respect to humans, their behavior, leads to the formation of another synesthetic metaphor <pitiless, unfeeling>:
To make them blush were they never so brassie and impudent (1576)
brassy face <unblushing, impudent>
And plucke commiseration of his state from brassie bosomes (1596) (OED).
Another metaphorical meaning arises in the adjective
This meaning creates the basis for the deployment of a further metaphorical process, for the emergence of the most frequent meaning in modern English <tastefully showy> ‘tasteless bright, noisy’, especially with regard to a woman: ‘
Those looks were the sing of
Besides, the analogy with brass musical instrument causes another metaphorical meaning:
Brassy style <harsh and feelingless in tone, like a brass instrument>;
Aretino proved his originality by creating a new manner, brassy and meretricious (1884) (OED).
A metaphor based on the analogy with copper color (red):
Of a pale brassy colour (1803).
The sky is brassy green (1857) (OED).
Circling slowly in the brass sky, it (the aircraft) transmitted no signal (1972) (COHA).
The metonymic meaning of the adjective <of the nature of brass> is based on the co-occurrence of features in one item (simple adjective metonymy): the taste of a copper item (spoon):
(It) left a
Everything had suddenly gone sour. Even the world’s most expensive vintage left a brassy taste in his mouth (2003) (BNC).
Thus, the analysis shows that the adjective
The analysis of semantic transformations of this group of words was also presented earlier on the example of the adjectives
Thus, the semantic analysis of substance-indicative adjectives makes it possible to conclude that these adjectives, on the one hand, rely in their semantics on semantic structures of the original word, on the other – reveal the ability to develop semantic processes according to the characteristic model typical for qualitative adjectives.
The analysis of historical semantics of two subclasses of relative denominative adjectives – argument- and substance- predicate – confirms the difference in their semantic nature and semantic processes. Semantic derivation of the former is based on processes of projecting secondary meanings of original nouns into semantic structures of derived adjectives.
The subclass of substance-indicative adjectives, on the other hand, relies in its semantic processes on the described noun: the property, on the basis of which the meaning shifts, is found in the prototypical binding of the adjective to the described noun. Thus, characteristic models of metaphor and metonymy similar to models of semantic derivation of qualitative adjectives are realized. This small lexical-semantic subclass can be considered intermediate between relative and qualitative adjectives.
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31 October 2020
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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation
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Vinogradova, S. (2020). History Of Semantic Development Of Relative Adjectives In English. In & D. K. Bataev (Ed.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism» Dedicated to the 80th Anniversary of Turkayev Hassan Vakhitovich, vol 92. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1164-1170). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.10.05.154