The central Distinction between Adjectives and Adverbs and their respective Functions


Term Paper, 2017
11 Pages, Grade: 1,7
Anonymous

Excerpt

Content

1. Introduction

2. Adjectives and Adverbs
2.1 Characteristics of Adjectives
2.1.1 Function, Grade, and Modification
2.2 Characteristics of Adverbs

3. The Distinction between Adjectives and Adverbs
3.1 Morphological Distinction
3.2 Distinction by Function

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The distinction between adverbs and adjectives essentially boils down to their respective functions. Discuss the characteristics of the categories of adverbs and adjective. Explain why it is only by considering their functions that we can distinguish adjectives and adverbs.

Adjectives and adverbs are descriptive words. An adjective modifies subjects (noun and pronouns), while an adverb modifies verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. When used appropriately, they can be part of a clear writing or speaking style. They help the reader or listener to understand more about the subject or the things mentioned. For example:

[1] i *[1] The car is.

ii The car is yellow and pretty big.

Sentence [i] tells us merely tells us about the existence of the car (noun) with the help of the word is (verb). Sentence [ii] describes the car’s outer appearance by using the adjectives yellow and big, both of which refer to the noun car. Here the adverb pretty modifies the adjective big.

Adjectives and adverbs contribute the description of a thing to language and are helpful to create a mood: They describe people or things, and consequently, broaden and deepen one’s knowledge of subjects and verbs. In Sentence [ii], we learn not only about the existence of the car, but also get a more distinct picture of its appearance.

This essay will mainly concentrate on the central distinction between adjectives and adverbs as one of their respective functions. Part 2.1 describes the characteristics of adjectives, while Part 2.2 elaborates on the characteristics of adverbs. Part 3 focuses on the main topic, namely the distinction between adjectives and adverbs based on their respective functions; this section explores why their functions are considered the only way to clearly distinguish between adjectives and adverbs. Part 4 gives a short summary of the findings and raises further questions concerning adjectives and adverbs. Given the limited scope of this paper, only essential aspects of adjectives and adverbs are provided and core issues relating to their functional distinction are mentioned.

This essay uses Huddleston’s Pullum’s A student's introduction to English grammar and The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language as main sources. See Bibliography for more detailed information. To illustrate the statements, all examples mentioned in this paper are taken from these books, except Example [1].

2. Adjectives and Adverbs

In Part 2 of the essay, the characteristics of adjectives and adverbs are presented and discussed to give some ground to the work Part 3.

2.1 Characteristics of Adjectives

The following section will give a summary of the most important characteristics of adjectives. Owing to the limited format of this essay, adjectives will not be presented in the light of other word categories such as nouns, verbs, and determiners, while adjective phrases (AdjP) will only be discussed briefly.

Adjectives characteristically describe nouns and pronouns. They ‘denote properties of objects, persons, places, etc.’ (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, 112). These properties could concern traits, feelings, nationalities, age, height and weight, colour, materiality, and form; they can express the worth and value of someone or something. Every language that has adjectives can express ‘…’good […] ‘bad’ […] ‘large’ […] ‘small’ […] ‘young’ […] ‘old’…” and a variety of ‘…colours…’ (Huddleston Pullum, 2002, p. 527).

2.1.1 Function, Grade, and Modification

The above-listed traits reveal a semantic outlook of adjectives and what they describe. This approach does not provide any clarity in deciding whether a word is an adjective or not. A thorough look at the word’s ‘distinctive syntactic properties’ (Huddleston Pullum, 2002, p. 528) is needed to understand whether it is an adjective or not. It is the function that words have within word structures that discloses their true nature. Based on their syntactical properties, common adjectives have three characteristics: function, grade, and modification (Huddleston Pullum, 2002, p. 528).

Function, which is explored in more detail in Part 3, refers to adjectives having attributive [2i] and predicative [2ii] use. The following examples have been taken from Huddleston Pullum (2005, p. 112):

[2] i ATR. USE an old car black hair good news

ii PRED. USE The car is old. Her hair is black. The news is good.

In [i], the adjective modifies the nouns car, hair, and news. It stands before the noun as a pre-head modifier. In [ii], the adjective functions as a predicative complement within the structure of the clauses (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 112) and follows the linking verb. Regarding verbs, adjectives never appear as predicators, but only as complements (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 116).

Grade refers to adjectives inflecting for grade or creating comparative and superlative adjective phrases, according to Huddleston Pullum (2005, p. 112):

[3] PLAIN COMPARATIVE SUPERLATIVE

i She is tall. She is taller than you. She is the tallest of them all.

ii This is useful. This is more useful than that. It is the most useful one.

In [i], the adjective can be graded, and it displays differences between plain, comparative, and superlative forms. In [ii], the adjective can be graded within the adjective phrase and is tagged by more and most (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 112).

The third property of adjectives, namely modification, refers to their being modified by adverbs, as shown in [4]. The adverbs stand right in front of adjectives, according to Huddleston Pullum (2005, p. 112),

[4] too old remarkably tall extremely useful to us

To identify adjectives within sentences, the syntactical view regarding function, grade, and modification are required. None of these categories exclusively emerges with adjectives and not every adjective fulfils all the characteristics at once. It is the grouping of more than one of these traits that evidently identifies adjectives as well as the ‘negative properties’ (Huddleston Pullum, 2002, p. 528) of adjectives that distinguish them from other words. For example, adjectives do not inflect for any tense or numbers as verbs do; they cannot be modified by adjectives like nouns or pronouns; they mostly do not take noun phrases as complements (Huddleston Pullum, 2002, p. 528).

Dependents in AdjP can be split into complements and modifiers (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 118). The choice of complements depends on head adjective—for example, [5] ‘ Afraid of the dark, bent on revenge, conversant with it and good at chess’ (cf. Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 118)—where the complements are prepositional phrases (PP). The preposition in [4] could not be * afraid on the dark (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 118).

In [6] “glad it was over, uncertain what to do, eager to win and hard to grasp” (Huddleston Pullum 2005: 118), we see subordinate clauses dependent on the adjective.

Adjectives are most commonly modified by adverbs or AdvP; they can also be modified by determinatives (DET), prepositional phrases (PP), and noun phrases (NP) (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 119).

2.2 Characteristics of Adverbs

The following section summarizes the most important characteristics of the category of adverbs. Adjectives are not the only delineative words that modify nouns and pronouns; adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. As the examples given below, taken from Huddleston Pullum (2005, p. 122) show, the style of modification is different:

[7] MODIFICATION OF NOUN MODIFICATION OF VERB

i a. a happy family b. They all lived happily ever after.

ii a. a greedy child b. The child devoured it greedily.

iii a. a passionate lover b. They loved each other passionately.

The adjectives happy, greedy, and passionate in Example [a] modify the nouns family, child, and lover and give a clearer description of the subjects. The adverbs in Example [b]— happily, greedily, and passionately— modify the verbs lived, devoured, and loved and give a more exact description of them. As shown in the examples, most adverbs are morphologically ‘derived from adjectives by adding the suffix –ly’ (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 122).

A distinctive characteristic of adverbs is that they cannot take the place of adjectives as the pre-head modifiers of a noun—this is shown by the following example taken from Huddleston Pullum (2005, p. 122):

[8] i a. a virtual disaster b. *his almost death [noun]

Example [a] displays that the adjective virtual modifies the noun disaster. The sentence is grammatically correct. In Example [b], the adverb almost tries to modify the noun death. However, this sentence is ungrammatical.[2]

When it comes to other categories of words, adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as shown in the following examples taken from Huddleston Pullum (2005: 122),

[9]

ii a. It virtually evaporated b. He almost died [verb]

iii a. It was virtually impossible. b. He was almost dead [adjective]

iv a. He spoke virtually inaudibly. b. He was wounded almost fatally [adv]

In [iia+b], the adverbs virtually and almost modify the verb evaporated and died; they, in fact, give a clearer description of the verbs and their states. In [iiia+b], the adverbs virtually and almost modify the adjectives impossible and dead and emphasize the adjectives’ description. Adverbs stress or weaken the meaning of adverbs and deepen the understanding of statements. In [iva+b], the adverbs virtually and almost modify the adverbs inaudibly and fatally and highlight that the latter adverbs modify the verbs spoke and was wounded.

Dependents in AdvP can be split into complements and modifiers (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 124). Some adverbs with the –ly suffix licence complements as shown by the following example taken from Huddleston Pullum (2005, p. 125): [10] ii Happily for the boys, the class was cancelled. Most modifiers are ADvPs: [11] i She sang very well; I did it rather hurriedly; and He spoke remarkably clearly (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 125). In all the three examples, the head adverb of the AdvP is modified by an adverb, but can also be modified by determiners, prepositional phrases, and noun phrases (Huddleston Pullum, 2005, p. 125).

[...]


[1] * Ungrammatical sentence, essentially incomplete.

[2] An adverb can could modify a noun in a post-head position within a sentence. For this, the adverb must be placed after the head noun—for example, the exercise tomorrow.

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Details

Title
The central Distinction between Adjectives and Adverbs and their respective Functions
College
University of Frankfurt (Main)
Grade
1,7
Year
2017
Pages
11
Catalog Number
V418613
ISBN (eBook)
9783668681538
ISBN (Book)
9783668681545
File size
531 KB
Language
English
Tags
distinction, adjectives, adverbs, functions
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2017, The central Distinction between Adjectives and Adverbs and their respective Functions, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/418613

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