Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   


From:Marcus Smith <smithma@...>
Date:Sunday, January 14, 2001, 1:32
Given the recent discussion of whether Chinese "adjectives" are stative
verbs or not, I thought I would summarize a discussion on the matter by R.
Dixon in "The Rise and Fall of Languages".

Adjectives come in two classes: open and closed.

The open class of adjectives allow new words to be added through borrowing
and coining, but the closed class does not. Igbo has a closed class of
adjectives comprised of a total of 8 (!) words. Adjectives referring to
physical properties such as "hot" or "heavy" are verbs, while words
referring to human qualities such as "sad" and "clever" are nouns.

The open class can be subdivided into four types:
a) similar to nouns (Latin, Spanish)
b) similar to verbs (Malay, Mohawk)
c) combine properties of nouns and verbs (Berber languages)
d) distinct from both nouns and verbs (English)

Types (c) and (d) are rare, most languages are either (a) or (b).

There is a strong statistical correlation between
head-marking/dependant-marking and which subclass of open adjectives a
language has.

I) Head-marking languages tend to have type (b) adjectives
II) Dependent-marking languages tend to have type (a) adjectives

Marcus Smith

"Sit down before fact as a little child,
be prepared to give up every preconceived notion,
follow humbly wherever and to whatsoever abysses Nature leads,
or you shall learn nothing."
                -- Thomas Huxley