adjectives modifying adjectives.

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Bert
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adjectives modifying adjectives.

Post by Bert » Sat Oct 29, 2005 5:04 pm

Quite a while back there was a bit of a discussion to determine if adjectives can modify adjectives. (As in dark in, dark brown car.)
I think the conclusion was that adjectives do not modify adjectives.
I can't remember the reasoning and I can't find the discussion.
Actually I am not sure if the discussion took place here or if it was on a study group mailing list. I do remember that Skylax took part in it.
Can anyone enlighten me?

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nostos
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Post by nostos » Sat Oct 29, 2005 6:24 pm

My impression is that in English dark seems more like an adverb modifying the adjective brown which in turn modifies car. But this is only ostensibly so: brown is a noun in this case, and what yer really saying is:

a car of dark brown.

You can see this much more clearly in Spanish: un coche de color negro (as an adjective of colour) obscuro (also an adjective of colour).

or else it modifies car directly:

a dark car (of brown colour), but this doesn't seem like what you want to say because 'dark' becomes an abstract adjective denoting quality and not colour.

I think! You come up with really hard ones. :P
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Post by PeterD » Sat Oct 29, 2005 10:19 pm

1. "A dark car."

2. "A dark brown car."

Bert, you just illustrated two uses of the word dark. In the first sentence it acts like an adjective; in the second like an adverb, as in How brown is the car? It is dark (i.e., very) brown.

Note, that had you put a comma after the word dark in the second sentence, it would then act as an adjective modifying the noun (not the adjective).

Though adjectives and adverbs share some characteristics, like Nostos said, an adjective cannot modify another adjective.


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Post by chad » Sat Oct 29, 2005 10:54 pm

hi bert, pharr-a from memory.

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Post by Democritus » Sun Oct 30, 2005 2:43 am

2. "A dark brown car."
I don't think that "dark" can be an adverb. In this case I would say that "dark brown" is a compound adjective. "Dark brown" is an adjective ("dark") modifying a noun ("brown"), and "dark brown car" is a noun phrase ("dark brown") being re-used as an adjective, modifying the noun "car." It's just like "pet shop" -- surely "pet" is a noun, but most English nouns can be used as adjectives. (E.g., "coffee ice cream" or "sunday suit.") And you can use "pet shop" itself as an adjective, for example, "pet shop clerk." In that phrase it is certainly not true that "pet" is an adverb.

You can be "darkly humourous" and you can "laugh darkly" but you cannot be "darkly brown" -- at least, "darkly brown" does not mean the same thing as "dark brown." You can be "surprisingly brown" or "inappropriately brown" or "mostly brown." I can't think of any bona fide adjectives that can be modified by "dark," so I think that "dark" is strictly an adjective. "Dark brown" must be a noun phrase.

Adjectives do not modify adjectives, by definition -- anything which modifies an adjective is an adverb. If you catch an adjective modifying an adjective, then it's not an adjective, it's an adverb. Some adjectives have a part time job as adverbs, but many others work full time as adjectives. No moonlighting. ;) English noun phrases like "dark brown car" or "political science professor" can make this rule difficult to see.

What do you folks think of this example:

1. Excessive speed
2. Excessively fast car
3. Excessive fast car* [bad]

You can be "excessively fast" and you can have "excessive speed," but you cannot be "excessive fast."* "Excessive" has to modify a noun.

4. Excessive speed warning
5. Excessively speed warning* [bad]

In the phrase "excessive speed warning" the phrase "excessive speed" is being used as an adjectival noun. Phrase five is ungrammatical.

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Post by Skylax » Sun Oct 30, 2005 7:12 pm

Hello Bert, hello All !

I said then the same as the others said here, except for "dark brown" as a noun phrase (Very clever indeed, although I would prefer dark = darkly. But, as you know, I am a layman in the field of English language !)

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Post by Bert » Mon Oct 31, 2005 1:17 am

Thank you all.
I want to have it a little clearer in my mind.
Adjectives do not modify adjectives, by definition -- anything which modifies an adjective is an adverb
My idea of an adverb may be a little simplistic but I would have said that an adverb modifies a verb. I am getting the impression that that is incomplete.
For instance 'quickly' in; 'he walks quickly' is an adverb.
In the sentence; he walks very quickly, is 'very' an adverb modifying an adverb?
Is 'very' in; 'a very fast horse', an adverb eventhough there is no verb in sight?
Thanks.

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Post by annis » Mon Oct 31, 2005 1:21 am

Bert wrote:Is 'very' in; 'a very fast horse', an adverb eventhough there is no verb in sight?
Yes. English adverbs may modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs ("very quietly").
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;

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Post by Paul » Mon Oct 31, 2005 2:25 am

Hi,

Adjectives don't modify adjectives. And, as Democritus rightly notes, "dark brown" is really a compound adjective.

A better example - though still wrong - would be "large white house". In this example the words "large" and "white" bear no syntactic relation to each other. They do not form a syntagm. Rather, each is a dependent of the noun "house".

You can illustrate the difference between these examples by making predicates of them:

1. The house is large and white.
2. The house is dark and brown.

The first sentence describes the house identically to "large white house". But to say (2) is not to say "dark brown house".

Cordially,

Paul

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Post by chad » Tue Nov 01, 2005 4:42 am

You can illustrate the difference between these examples by making predicates of them:

1. The house is large and white.
2. The house is dark and brown.

The first sentence describes the house identically to "large white house". But to say (2) is not to say "dark brown house".
hi paul, your post is currently the second last post, so your post is second and last! :)

you could call second last a compound adjective but that avoids the question, can you specify an adjective with another word which, on its own, is considered an adjective? yep, and if i remember my aussie grammar education correctly, a word used in this way is a "thingo".

aristotle discusses the question of "large white", largeness relating to the white only κατὰ συμβεβηκός "accidentally" but properly relating to the white object as you say. that's in the categories somewhere.

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Post by Democritus » Tue Nov 01, 2005 2:47 pm

chad wrote:you could call second last a compound adjective but that avoids the question, can you specify an adjective with another word which, on its own, is considered an adjective? yep, and if i remember my aussie grammar education correctly, a word used in this way is a "thingo".
Funny. :) We used to call them "adverbs." You can say "second best" and "second highest," and you can even say "I finished second" or "I ran second fastest." This word "second" looks like an adverb to me.

Compound adjectives are a real phenomenon (although they may sometimes escape notice, and when used carelessly they can lead to ambiguities). Think of "hazardous waste directory." What's hazardous: the waste, or the directory? Certainly the directory is not hazardous. Nor can we say that the directory describes waste "in a hazardous way." So hazardous is no adverb, and it does not modify expert. What is it doing?

But let's suppose you are right. If adjectives can modify other adjectives, then why is item three ungrammatical? You don't need a grammar book, because your instincts tell you it's wrong. So what's wrong with it? What's going on?
3. Excessive fast car* [bad]

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Post by Paul » Tue Nov 01, 2005 3:15 pm

Hi Chad,
chad wrote:you could call second last a compound adjective but that avoids the question, can you specify an adjective with another word which, on its own, is considered an adjective? yep, and if i remember my aussie grammar education correctly, a word used in this way is a "thingo".
I don't think I avoided the question; my answer was (and is) "adjectives don't modify adjectives". If you can give an example of a "thingo" (assuming that you're not teasing me, please do). :)
chad wrote:aristotle discusses the question of "large white", largeness relating to the white only κατὰ συμβεβηκός "accidentally" but properly relating to the white object as you say. that's in the categories somewhere.
For Aristotle whiteness is indeed κατὰ συμβεβηκός, that is, a predicate contingently related to the subject - an "accident".

Finally, as Democritus rightly reasserts, "compound adjectives are a real phenomenon". We could probably find a single word for "dark brown", but we'd have difficulty, I think, finding a single word for "large white".

Cordially,

Paul

P.S. - my post is no longer "second last" :D

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Post by chad » Tue Nov 01, 2005 9:54 pm

hi, yep i agree with both of you. hazardous is an adjective, and it can modify another adj as a compound adj, and in that role it's classed for syntax as an adverb, but on its own it's an adjective.

the "excessive fast" e.g. of course shows that not all adjectives can be specified by any other adjectives. i agree with that as well :)

i should add paul, i wasn't teasing i just couldn't think of a greek example, which is what prompted bert's original qn in pharr-a, can you do it in greek? i still don't know. :)

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Post by Democritus » Thu Nov 03, 2005 6:01 am

chad wrote:hi, yep i agree with both of you. hazardous is an adjective, and it can modify another adj as a compound adj, and in that role it's classed for syntax as an adverb, but on its own it's an adjective.

the "excessive fast" e.g. of course shows that not all adjectives can be specified by any other adjectives. i agree with that as well :)
Ouch. Well, your opinion is clear and consistent, at least. But I don't agree. "Hazardous" is never an adverb. "Excessive" is also never an adverb, and that's why it cannot modify "fast" -- it can only modify nouns, just as "hazardous" can only modify nouns. Adjectives never modify other adjectives. If you ever find an adjective modifying an adjective, then either one of them is an adverb, or one of them is a noun.

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Post by chad » Thu Nov 03, 2005 7:14 am

hi, the word "second" can specify a substantive "post" or a non-substantive "last". i don't mind what "second" is called in grammar or syntax. this e.g. answers bert's original qn.

(i also agree that in a case like "large white object" "large" quantifies the object, and only quantifies "white" kata\ sumbebhko/j. i was talking about largeness, not whiteness, above. aristotle gives this very e.g. in 5b. i.e. quantity adjectives don't strictly modify quality adjectives, only kata\ sumbebhko/j.

and to limit it further it's also obvious that some non-substantives can only modify other non-substantives. e.g. quantitative relatives like "more", "less" can modify qualities like "white" but not all substantives, see aristotle 4b on this.)

as i said in the above posts, i think for the question "can an adjective modify an adjective", the answers are yes conceptually, no syntactically (because it's called an adverb or a compound adjective element, i agree with you on this) :)

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Post by Paul » Thu Nov 03, 2005 7:58 pm

chad wrote:(i also agree that in a case like "large white object" "large" quantifies the object, and only quantifies "white" kata\ sumbebhko/j. i was talking about largeness, not whiteness, above. aristotle gives this very e.g. in 5b. i.e. quantity adjectives don't strictly modify quality adjectives, only kata\ sumbebhko/j.

as i said in the above posts, i think for the question "can an adjective modify an adjective", the answers are yes conceptually, no syntactically (because it's called an adverb or a compound adjective element, i agree with you on this) :)
Hi,

I am very much enjoying this conversation.

I disagree with Chad about the relations between accidental predicates. My understanding is that the "predicables" express a relation between a subject and a predicate. There is no immediate relationship between accidental predicables. E.g., "whiteness" and "largeness" are accidents of Larry Bird. You can predicate both of him. But you can't predicate "whiteness" of "largeness". Put otherwise, "whiteness" doesn't exist in "largeness".

These relations are expressed in syntax. A dependency grammar analysis of:

"Larry Bird is a large white man."

would relate "large" to "man" and "white" to "man" (each depends on - modifies - "man"). But there would be no relationship between "large" and "white".

Cordially,

Paul

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Post by chad » Thu Nov 03, 2005 10:01 pm

? i was talking about largeness, not whiteness; i was also agreeing with you! here's the loeb translation of aristotle 5b:
a white object is often called large, since the surface it covers is large [cf the greek: polu\ to\ leukon le/getai tw=| th\n e)pifa/neian pollh\n ei)=nai, since "white object" in english doesn't capture the grk properly: english can't handle aristotle: cf. the french "on dit qu'il y a beaucoup de blanc parce qu' il y a beaucoup de surface [blanche]": éditions due seuil, mai 2002]... someone asks you 'how large is that white thing?'. you mention the surface it covers. as large as the surface it covers, so large, you will say, that white object. the things, then, referred to alone in themselves can be strictly called quantities; other things thus designated can only lay claim to that name, if at all, in a secondary sense [kata\ sumbebhko/j].
i wasn't talking about whiteness, either whether it can modify largeness or at all about its nature as a predicate. i was agreeing that in your e.g. the modifier of the colour actually modifies the object, and only the colour in a "derivative" sense:
aristotle discusses the question of "large white", largeness relating to the white only kata\ sumbebhko/j "accidentally" but properly relating to the white object as you say. that's in the categories somewhere.
(i also agree that in a case like "large white object" "large" quantifies the object, and only quantifies "white" kata\ sumbebhko/j. i was talking about largeness, not whiteness, above. aristotle gives this very e.g. in 5b. i.e. quantity adjectives don't strictly modify quality adjectives, only kata\ sumbebhko/j.
none of this affects the e.g. "second last post", or any of the e.g. epithets through homer "dark eyed" or "rolling eyed" (depending on your interpretation of this), "white armed" &c. "dark", "bright", "white" don't directly modify the hero/god here of course. that'a about all i've got to say on this since i can't think of anything new to add; i'm happy to be corrected on my grammar terminology about whether these adjectives are now called adverbs, compound adjectives &c &c :)

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Post by Paul » Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:20 pm

Hi Chad,

I apologize if I came on as combative. I'm certainly not trying to pick a fight.

You seem well-versed in Aristotle, with whom I am getting ever more familiar. I simply wanted to air-out some ideas.

Cordially,

Paul

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Post by chad » Fri Nov 04, 2005 9:52 pm

hi paul, no the only reason i entered this thread was that your first post put forward an interesting point which reminded me of aristotle! that's not bad!! no need to apologise for that! :) :)

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Post by Bert » Sat Nov 05, 2005 1:14 am

This has been very interesting.
(I am utterly amazed at the way you guys can quote Greek authors.
I have a hard time remembering enough to quote an English author.)

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Post by Thucydides » Sat Nov 05, 2005 9:58 am

This question was always a bit of a favourite at school as a sort of teacher's grammatical trivia question: "What else do adverbs modify apart from verbs?"
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