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1.3.1. Set-denoting, relational, and evaluative adjectives and the residue

Although the distinctions are not always as clear-cut as one would wish, we will distinguish four semantic classes: the set-denoting, relational and evaluative adjectives, and a residual class consisting of various sorts of adjectives (modal adjectives, emphasizers, etc.). This classification is based on two semantic properties of the adjectives, which, for the sake of convenience, will be represented by means of the features ±qualifying and ±kind-of relation. By means of these two features, the four classes of adjectives in Table 7 can be distinguished.

Table 7: A semantic classification of adjectives
  [+kind-of relation] [-kind-of relation]
[+qualifying] set-denoting adjectives evaluative adjectives
[-qualifying] relational adjectives the residue

A positive value for the feature ±qualifying indicates that the adjective ascribes some property or positive/negative value to the modified noun (phrase). A positive value for the feature ±kind-of relation] indicates that the adjective expresses some relation between the denotation of the noun and something else (we will clarify this below). Some concrete examples are given in (24).

Example 24
a. de grote auto
  the  big  car
b. een Amerikaanse auto
  an  American  car
c. die verdomde auto
  that  damned  car
d. een zekere auto
  certain  car

Subsection II will show that at least the distinction between set-denoting adjectives and adjectives belonging to the three remaining classes is reflected in their syntactic and/or morphological behavior. But before we do this, Subsection I will briefly characterize each of the four semantic subtypes.

[+]  I.  A brief characterization of the four adjectival classes

This subsection provides a brief characterization of the four adjectival classes we have distinguished in Table 7.

[+]  A.  Set-denoting adjectives

Set-denoting adjectives, such as aardig'nice' and blauw'blue' in (25), denote a property of the modified noun (phrase), and have the syntactic property that they can normally be used both attributively and predicatively. In the (a)-examples of (25), for example, the property of being kind is ascribed to (de) jongen'(the) boy' by means of, respectively, an attributively and a predicatively used adjective. The set-denoting adjectives also express a kind-of relation, which can be informally described as “N has the property A"; see Section 1.3.2 for a detailed discussion.

Example 25
Set-denoting adjectives
a. de aardige jongen
  the  kind  boy
b. de blauwe ballon
  the  blue  balloon
a'. De jongen is aardig.
  the boy  is nice
b'. de ballon is blauw.
  the balloon  is blue
[+]  B.  Relational adjectives

Relational adjectives differ from set-denoting adjectives in that they do not denote a property. Nevertheless, they do express a kind-of relation between two separate entities. Normally, these adjectives can only be used attributively. Some typical examples are given in (26).

Example 26
Relational adjectives
a. het morfologische handboek
  the  morphological  companion
c. de dagelijkse krant
   the  daily  newspaper
a'. * Het handboek is morfologisch.
c'. * De krant is dagelijks.
b. het adellijke slot
  the  noble  castle
d. de Nederlandse duinen
  the  Dutch  dunes
b'. * Het slot is adellijk.
d'. * De duinen zijn Nederlands.

The kind-of relation expressed in (26a) can be paraphrased as “N is about morphology", the one in (26b) as “N belongs to the nobility", the one in (26c) as “N appears everyday", and the one in (26d) as “N is situated in the Netherlands". Observe that the adjectives in (26a-d) are all derived from nouns, and this seems indeed to be a characteristic of this type of adjective. Note also that the expressed kind-of relation is often contextually or culturally determined and may require substantial knowledge of the actual world. This will become clear when we consider the examples in (27).

Example 27
a. een freudiaanse verspreking
  Freudian  lapsus.linguae
  'a Freudian slip'
b. chomskiaanse taalkunde
  Chomskyan  linguistics

Example (27a) expresses that we are dealing with a lapsus linguae that is in some relation with the psychologist Sigmund Freud. The precise interpretation, which is culturally determined in this case, is that we are dealing with a slip of the tongue caused by some subconscious mechanism that expresses something about the disposition of the speaker, a topic that has been studied by Freud. In the apparently similar case in (27b), the relation is of a totally different nature: chomskiaanse taalkunde refers to the branch of linguistics developed by (the followers of) the American linguist Noam Chomsky.
      Occasionally, the relation is metaphorical in nature. Een vorstelijk salaris in (28a), for example, refers to a very high salary (a salary that would be appropriate for a monarch), and een vaderlijke terechtwijzing in (28b) need not refer to a reproof given by a father, but by someone who behaves likes a father. In other cases, like (28c&d), we are dealing with more or lesss fixed combinations, often belonging to a certain jargon. The relational adjectives are more extensively discussed in Section 1.3.3.

Example 28
a. een vorstelijk salaris
  princely  salary
c. vrouwelijk rijm
  feminine  rhyme
b. een vaderlijke terechtwijzing
  fatherly  admonition
d. bezittelijk voornaamwoord
  possessive  pronoun
[+]  C.  Evaluative adjectives

Although the evaluative adjectives attribute a positive or negative value to the modified noun, this is generally not done by virtue of their descriptive content, as in the case of the predicative adjectives, but in a more indirect way. Neither do they (synchronically speaking) establish a kind-of relation with another entity. Example (29a) is probably self-explanatory in this respect. Example (29b) shows that evaluative adjectives cannot be used predicatively. See Section 1.3.4 for more discussion.

Example 29
Evaluative adjectives
a. die verdomde/dekselse jongen
  that  damned/confounded  boy
  'that damned/confounded boy'
b. * Die jongen is verdomd/deksels.
[+]  D.  The residue

The three classes discussed in the previous subsections leave us with a residue, which consists of adjectives that are often comparable to adverbial phrases. Modal adjectives, for instance, resemble modal adverbs in the sense that they express a modal meaning. The adjective vermeend'alleged/supposed' in (30a), for instance, expresses that the person we are talking about has been mistaken for or is supposed to be the culprit, and the adjective potentieel'potential' in (30b) expresses that the entity we are talking about may turn out to be a counterexample. Like the relational and evaluative adjectives, the modal adjectives cannot be used predicatively. See Section 1.3.5 for more discussion.

Example 30
Modal adjectives
a. de vermeende dader
  the  alleged/supposed  culprit
a'. * De dader is vermeend.
b. het potentiële tegenvoorbeeld
  the  potential  counterexample
b'. * Het tegenvoorbeeld is potentieel.
[+]  II.  Distinctive properties of set-denoting adjectives

It is easy to distinguish the set-denoting adjectives from the three other semantic types of adjectives, given that only the former can be used predicatively. This was illustrated earlier in the examples in (25), (26), (29), and (30) from Subsection I by means of the behavior of these adjectives in the copular construction; some of these examples are repeated in (31). Section will show that the ability of the set-denoting adjective to occur in predicative position is intimately related to their set-denoting property.

Example 31
a. Jan is aardig.
  Jan is nice
b. * De duinen zijn Nederlands.
  the dunes  are  Dutch
c. * Die jongen is verdomd.
  that boy  is damned
d. * De dader is vermeend.
  the culprit  is alleged

There is, furthermore, a subset of set-denoting adjectives that can readily be distinguished from adjectives that are not set-denoting on different grounds. These are the so-called gradable adjectives, which refer to properties that are situated on some tacitly assumed scale; cf. Section, sub I. These gradable set-denoting adjectives can be modified by means of an intensifier (degree adverb) like erg/zeer'very', as is shown in (32a). The remaining examples in (32) show that adjectives that are not set-denoting lack this possibility.

Example 32
a. de erg/zeer aardige jongen
  the  very  kind  boy
b. * het erg/heel morfologische handboek
  the  very  morphological  companion
c. * die erg/heel drommelse jongen
  that  very  damned  boy
d. * het zeer/heel potentiële tegenvoorbeeld
  the  very  potential  counterexample

The gradable adjectives can also be input for comparative and superlative formation. The examples in (33b-d) again show that this is impossible for adjectives that are not set-denoting.

Example 33
a. de aardigere/aardigste jongen
  the  kinder/kindest  boy
b. * het adellijker/adellijkste slot
  the  more/most noble  castle
c. * de drommelser/drommelste jongen
  the  more/most damned  boy
d. * het potentiëler/potentieelste tegenvoorbeeld
  the  more/most potential  counterexample

Finally, a subset of the gradable set-denoting adjectives allows on- prefixation; the output form either negates the property expressed by the positive input form of the adjective, or denotes a property on the opposite side of the implied scale. Some examples are given in (34).

Example 34
a. onaardig 'unkind'
e. onrein 'impure'
b. onbegaafd 'untalented'
f. onschadelijk 'harmless'
c. onhandig 'clumsy'
g. onvoldoende 'insufficient'
d. onmatig 'immoderate'
h. onzacht 'rude'

The examples in (35) show that on- prefixation is categorically blocked with input adjectives that are not set-denoting.

Example 35
a. * het onadellijke slot
  the  un-noble  castle
b. * de ondrommelse jongen
  the  un-damned  boy
c. * de onvermeende dader
  the  un-alleged  culprit

For completeness’ sake, observe that the negative marker on- can be combined with adjectives and nouns only. Some examples with nouns are (on)geduld'(im)patience', (on)recht'(in)justice', and (on)trouw'(in)fidelity'.

[+]  III.  Summary

This section has shown that the class of set-denoting adjectives can be readily distinguished from the other adjective classes on syntactic and morphological grounds. As we will see in the following sections, the other adjective classes also have their own characteristic properties: for instance, we have already observed that relational adjectives are typically derived from a nominal base. However, before we proceed to a more detailed discussion of the distinguished adjectival classes, let us first summarize the discussion in the previous subsections by means of Table 8. The second column of the table indicates whether the adjective ascribes some property, value, etc. to the modified noun (phrase); the third column indicates whether a kind-of relation is expressed, including the “N has the property A" relation expressed by the set-denoting adjectives; the fourth and fifth columns indicate whether the adjective can be used attributively and/or predicatively; the last two columns, finally, express whether degree modification (i.e., modification by means of an intensifier or comparative/superlative formation) or on- prefixation is possible.

Table 8: Set-denoting, relational, evaluative adjectives and the residue
  qualifying kind-of attributive predicative gradable on-prefix
set-denoting + + + + +
relational + +
evaluative + +
residue +
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