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Adjectives and nouns

5.6 Adjectives and Nouns

We have seen that attributive adjectives occur before a noun which they modify, for example, red in red car. We need to distinguish these clearly from nouns which occur in the same position, and fulfil the same syntactic function. Consider the following: 

rally car  
saloon car  
family car 

Here, the first word modifies the second, that is, it tells us something further about the car. For example, a rally car is a car which is driven in rallies. These modifiers occur in the same position as red in the example above, but they are not adjectives. We can show this by applying our criteria for the adjective class.

Firstly, they do not take very

*a very rally car  
*a very saloon car  
*a very family car 

Secondly, they do not have comparative or superlative forms: 

*rallier *ralliest / *more rally / *most rally  
*salooner *saloonest / *more saloon / *most saloon  
*familier *familiest / *more family / *most family 

And finally, they cannot occur in predicative position: 

*the car is rally  
*the car is saloon  
*the car is family 

So although these words occupy the typical adjective position, they are not adjectives. They are nouns.

However, certain adjectives are derived from nouns, and are known as DENOMINAL adjectives. Examples include:  

a mathematical puzzle [`a puzzle based on mathematics']  
a biological experiment [`an experiment in biology']  
a wooden boat [`a boat made of wood'] 

Denominals include adjectives which refer to nationality: 

a Russian lady [`a lady who comes from Russia']  
German goods [`goods produced in Germany'] 

Denominal adjectives of this type should be carefully distinguished from nominal adjectives denoting nationalities. Compare:  

Nominal Adjective: The French are noted for their wines  
Denominal Adjective: The French people are noted for their wines

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