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1.3.4.Evaluative adjectives

Evaluative adjectives attribute some value to the modified noun. This is not done, however, by virtue of their own descriptive content (that is, we are not dealing with an “N is A" relation), but in a more indirect way. Neither do the evaluative adjectives establish a kind-of relation with some other entity, at least not synchronically speaking; although drommels in (151a) is derived from the obsolete noun drommel'devil', most present-day speakers will not be aware of this fact. The examples in (151) further show that evaluative adjectives can only be used attributively, and that modification by an intensifier is impossible.

Evaluative adjectives
a. die (*erg) drommelse jongen
  that    very  damned/devilish  boy
  'that damned boy'
b. * Die jongen is drommels.

Evaluative adjectives normally express some negative value: drommels/duivels'devilish', bliksems (lit: lightning-ly), deksels'confounded', jammerlijk'deplorable', verrekt/verdomd'damned', vermaledijd'cursed'. Evaluative adjectives that express a positive value seem rare, if they exist at all; some potential positive examples are hemels'celestial', and idyllisch'idyllic', but since these examples can readily be used in predicative position, we may actually be dealing with set-denoting adjectives.

a. een hemelse maaltijd
  celestial  dish
a'. Deze maaltijd is hemels.
  this dish  is celestial
b. een idyllische plek
  an  idyllic  spot
b'. Deze plek is idyllisch.
  this spot  is idyllic

      Occasionally, set-denoting adjectives may shift their meaning in the direction of evaluative adjectives. Some typical examples of this extended use are given in (153), in which the adjectives certainly do not denote an attribute of the head noun. Neither do they imply a kind-of relation. The primed examples show that due to the fact that these set-denoting adjectives do not denote a property of the modified noun, they cannot be used predicatively either.

a. een luie stoel
  lazy  chair
a'. * Deze stoel is/lijkt lui.
   this chair  is/seems  lazy
b. een stoere trui
  tough  sweater
b'. *? Deze trui is/lijkt stoer.
   this sweater  is/seems  tough
c. een verliefde uitdrukking
  an  in.love  expression
c'. * De uitdrukking was/bleek verliefd.
   the expression was/appeared  in.love
d. een kwade dronk
  mean  drink
d'. * Deze dronk is/bleek kwaad.
   this drink is/appeared  mean

The evaluation of the head noun expressed by the adjectives in (153) is established rather indirectly; (153a) expresses that we are dealing with a chair in which one can be lazy, (153b) expresses that we are dealing with a sweater that makes one feel/look tough, and (153c) refers to the expression one has when one is in love. The noun phrase een kwade dronk in (153d) is used in the fixed expression een kwade dronk hebben'to be quarrelsome in oneʼs cup'.
      Observe that the attributively used adjectives in the primeless examples of (154) seem to be related to the adjunct middle construction in the doubly-primed examples; cf., e.g., Hoekstra & Roberts (1993) and Ackema & Schoorlemmer (2006). This construction is discussed in Section V3.2.2.3.

a. een lekkere stoel
  a nice chair
a'. * Deze stoel is/lijkt lekker.
   this chair is/seems nice
a''. Deze stoel zit lekker.
  This chair sits nicely
b. een lekker mes
  a nice knife
b'. * Dit mes is lekker.
   this knife is nice
b''. Dit mes snijdt lekker.
  this knife cuts  nicely

      When we are dealing with nouns such as opmerking'remark' or brief'letter', the evaluative adjective often refers to the supposed disposition of the source of the referent of the nominal phrase. The examples in (155) show that such phrases often function as the subject of the verb klinken'to sound'. In examples such as (156), the adjective may refer to the (resulting) mood of the perceiver.

a. een droevige opmerking
  sad  remark
a'. De opmerking klinkt droevig.
  the remark  sounds  sad
b. de emotionele brief
  the  emotional  letter
b'. De brief klinkt emotioneel.
  the letter  sounds  emotional
a. een vrolijk concert
  merry  concert
  'a concert that makes one merry'
b. een opbeurende boodschap
  an  up.cheering  message
  'a message that cheers one up'

      Sometimes it is difficult to decide whether we are dealing with a set-denoting adjective in its regular or in its extended, evaluative use. Example (157a), for instance, certainly does not express the fact that it is the food that is in an unhealthy state. Still, the adjective ongezond can be used as a predicate of the noun phrase dit voedsel in (157b). Therefore, this adjective should probably not be considered an evaluative adjective, but an elliptic form of the complex AP voor mensen ongezond'unhealthy for people', which can likewise be used both as an attributive and as a predicative phrase.

a. ongezond voedsel
  unhealthy food
a'. voor mensen ongezond voedsel
  for people  unhealthy  food
b. Dit voedsel is ongezond.
  this food  is unhealthy
b'. Dit voedsel is voor mensen ongezond.
  this food  is for people  unhealthy
  • Ackema, Peter & Schoorlemmer, Maaike2006MiddlesEveraert, Martin & Riemsdijk, Henk van (eds.)The Blackwell companion to syntax3Malden, MA/OxfordBlackwell Publishing131-203
  • Hoekstra, Teun & Roberts, Ian1993Middle constructions in Dutch and EnglishReuland, Eric & Abraham, Werner (eds.)Knowledge of language2: lexical and conceptual structureDordrechtKluwer Academic Publishers183-220
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