Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

The Adjective

The Adjective.

The definition of the adjective is equally defective. If it is defined by quality, what of adjectives of quantity? and if by quality and quantity, what of adjectives of distinction?

Then it is generally defined as being added to a noun, and, more fully, a pronoun. What of phrases, and sentences, and ideas expressed by paragraphs or otherwise?

page 8

Then one still hears that the comparative sometimes expresses a less degree of comparison, as "smaller." The comparative "er" always, of course, expresses a higher degree of the idea of the positive.

The superlative is often stated to be the highest degree of the positive, ignoring the true conception of comparison, that the comparative and superlative are only higher and highest of certain things compared; while the same positive in another instance may be much higher in degree, than its own superlative in this instance. The general statement, that adjectives have three degrees, should therefore be modified by the statement that, when things are compared, adjectives take three degrees. Absolutely, they have many degrees expressed in various ways.

The positive is also stated to express an idea without any reference to another, which is only true in a very limited sense; for, when I assert any man to be tall, I can do so only by reference to others.

There is a fertile source of error and confusion in not distinguishing between adjectives and pronouns. Many words have both functions in most languages, as the demonstrative, distributive, indefinite, and relative. They are, of course, adjectives when they qualify, and pronouns when they stand alone—i.e., stand for a noun. Yet we hear of a demonstrative adjective pronoun, &c., as if both at once. "Did he tell you that? " That is either an adjective or a pronoun, not both.

One seldom now hears of nine parts of speech, and the articles are referred to their true class of adjective. But this is frequently carried too far. These articles form a distinct class by themselves, and should not be coolly allocated to the demonstratives and numerals. They are absent in some languages and present in others, and add to the completeness of any language that has them. They should be made one of the classes of adjectives.