Semantic peculiarities of adjectives in the function of the predicative

The differences in the meaning of the structure adjective depending on the use of the predicative with different prepositions. Adjective complementation by to-infinitive and that-clause. The alternative constructions with identical "surface" structure.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Semantic peculiarities of adjectives in the function of the predicative

Deychakivska O. V.,

Candidate of Philological Sciences, Senior Lecturer at Department of English Philology Ivan Franko National University of Lviv

Summary. The article deals with the semantic peculiarities of adjectives in the function of the predicative. The differences in the meaning of the structure Vcop+Adjective depending on the use of the predicative adjective with different prepositions have been analyzed. Adjective complementation by toinfinitive and thatclause has been studied. The alternative constructions demonstrate the different meaning of “deep” structures of the sentences with the identical “surface” structure. adjective predicative preposition

Key words: predicative adjectives, semantic peculiarities, transforms, deep structure, surface structure.

Дейчакивская О. В. Семантические особенности прилагательного в функции предикатива

Аннотация. В статье рассмотрены семантические особенности прилагательного в функции предикатива. Проанализированы изменения значения конструкции Vcop+Adj при употреблении с различными предложными группами. Определено семантическое наполнение рассматриваемых структур в случае, когда за именем прилагательным следует подчинительное предложение или инфинитив. Предложенные трансформы свидетельствуют о неоднозначности глубинных структур, которые в то же время могут иметь тождественное поверхностное, т.е. формальнограмматическое, выражение.

Ключевые слова: предикативное прилагательное, семантические особенности, трансформы, глубинная структура, поверхностная структура.

Дейчаківська О. В. Семантичні особливості прикметника у функції предикатива

Анотація. У статті розглянуто семантичні особливості прикметників у функції предикатива. Проаналізовано відмінності значення структури Vcop+Adj у разі вживання з різними прийменниковими фразами. Визначено семантичне наповнення структури, коли за прикметником слідує підрядне речення чи інфінітив. Запропоновані трансформи засвідчують неоднозначність глибинних структур, які водночас можуть мати однакове поверхневе, тобто формальнограматичне, вираження.

Ключові слова: предикативний прикметник, семантичні особливості, трансформи, глибинна структура, поверхнева структура.

The analysis of syntactic and semantic characteristics of copulative verbs central and peripheral constituents of the macrofield of copulativity still remains one of the topical issues in the study of the English language.

It is a wellknown fact that a number of verbs functioning as copulas in English is much more numerous than that in other languages. Verbs in the function of copula along with the other parts of speech can be used with adjectives as their complements. Yet not all the adjectives can be combined with all the link verbs. The detailed characteristics of the combinability of copulas and adjectives have been presented by many scientists (0. Jespersen [10], H. Poutsma [11], J. Curme[9],R. Quirk [13]).

The investigations concerning linkverbs as a rule include the following issues: criteria enabling the verbs to function as copulas, syntagmatic processes typical of the model Vcop+Complement, lexical combinability of copulas and adjectives in the function of predicative and their semantic role structure.

Yet the focus being put on the study of copulas, the peculiarities of adjectives in the function of a predicative are open to further research. Still less attention has been paid to adjectives in the function of the predicative when followed by prepositional phrases or clauses.

The fact that predicative may be represented by a phrase has been constantly mentioned by former Soviet [14, p. 246] and Ukrainian linguists [4, p. 262], yet the phrase they most usually considered was “preposition+noun”. It is M. CelceMurcia and D. LarsenFreeman who mention that among adjectives in predicative position there are “adjectives that must be followed by prepositional phrase or infinitives (i.e. ones that are more complex syntactically)” [5, p. 383]. E.g.: Debbie seems inclined to agree.

Adjective in this position has been treated differently including the use of different terms suggested by linguists. R. Zandvoort used the term “predicative adjective” [17], R. Allen a pedicated [3], S. Chatman adjectivals [6]. B. Strang and G. Teyssier state that definition and description of the positional classes of predicatives remains problematic [15; 16].

The study of the combinability of certain copulas with certain groups of adjectives is mostly concerned with the study of adjectives in the final position, yet not all the adjectives can be used in that position without complementation.

The aim of the article is to study semantic peculiarities of adjectives in the function of complement when followed by: 1) prepositionalphrase; 2) toinfinitive; 3) thatclause.

The widest range of meanings is found in case of adjective complementation expressed by prepositional phrase. The detailed list is presented in Collins COBUILD English Grammar [7, p. 7273].

Some adjectives cannot be used alone after a link verb. They are followed by a prepositional phrase which must have a particular preposition.

Thus, predicative adjectives followed by the preposition “to” most often render the meaning of “similarity”, “loyalty”, “marriage”, “rank”.

E.g.: My problems are very similar to yours. He is dedicated to hisjob. She is junior to me.

Possible transformations demonstrate that meanings expressed by construction Vcop+Adjective Complementation can be also expressed by means of adjective in the attributive position or by the corresponding verb.

E.g.: My problems are similar to yours. > I have similar problems. He is dedicated to hisjob. > He dedicated his life to thisjob. They are devoted to their children. > They devoted their life to their children.

The above transformations also demonstrate that the verb (in case of simple predicate) and the adjective (both in the function of attribute and predicative) share the same semantic meaning.

Used alone or with “of' the adjectives may specify the cause of a feeling [8 p. 42]. E. g.: He was jealous of her success. > Her success was the reason for his bemgjealous. They became suspicious ofhis behaviour. > His behaviour was the reason of their becoming suspicious.

To this group belong adjectives afraid, convinced, envious, jealous, proud, suspicious, terrified, tired. All the examples render causative meaning. E.g.: I thought she'd got tired of waiting (S. Maugham). Sometimes I got tired o/being called lucky (M. Spark). Unless we get frightened of people (W. Golding).

Along with the above mentioned meaning the structure with preposition “of" may also indicate that a person has certain quality [8, p. 42]. E.g.: How clever of you to work it out. > He was a clever man to work it out. He turned the job down which was stupid of him. > He was a stupid man to turn down the job. It was generous enough of him to pay for us both. > He was a generous man to offer to pay for us both.

The cause of a feeling may be also indicated by a structure with the preposition “with". E.g.: If you're dissatisfied with our service, please write to our manager. > If our service is the reason for your being dissatisfied, please write to our manager.

The use of preposition “for" renders some additional, more detailed information about a person or thing having certain property. E.g.: It's difficultfor young people on their own. It was unusual for them to go away for the weekend.

Used with the preposition "at" predicative adjectives usually refer to some strong emotions: amazed, astonished, shocked, surprised or some ability: bad, excellent, good, hopeless, useless. E.g.: He was shocked at the hatred they had shown. They were amazed at her knowledge of French literature. She had always been good at languages. We were worried about the situation. < . .> then you get mad at him (S. Maugham) [8, p. 42]. It is worth mentioning that in case of all the above enumerated participial adjectives the construction has its active analogue i.e. the sentence in the active voice: He was surprised at her behaviour. > Her behaviour surprised him. We were worried about the situation. > The situation worried us [12, p. 309]. Similarly to the adjectives used with the preposition "of", the structure has causative meaning.

All the analyzed structures show the different semantic meaning depending on the preposition used after the adjective.

In some cases the use of one and the same adjective with different prepositions specify either a thing or a person. E.g.: adjectives angry, annoyed, delighted, disappointed, fed up, furious, happy, upset specify a thing when used with the preposition "about". When used with a preposition "with" they specify a person.

E.g.: She was still angry about the result. They're getting pretty fed up with him.

The construction be(cop)+deverbative adjective may render the meaning of the Continuous tense with the verbs that are not used in the form of Continuous. E.g.: <...> he was apologetic > he was apologizing. The man was incredulous. > He didn't believe. The whole structure in such cases acquires the character of the process and the one that takes place during some certain circumstances [1].

Many adjectives after be and other link verbs are followed by infinitives and resemble semantically similar verbs:

He was afraid to open the door (He feared to< .

They were eager to come (They wanted to< .

I am delightedtogo(I like to< .

He appears reluctant to admit that (He hesitates to< .

Among other adjectives that are followed by infinitives are these: accustomed, ashamed, careful, competent, free, glad, happy, impatient, inclined, pleased, proud, qualified, ready, sorry, sure, willing [2, p. 94].

Semantically these are structures that describe: a) emotional state of the subject: He was ashamed to let anybody see his home (K. Desay); b) willingness, desire or unwillingness on the side of the subject: They found her beautiful and she was willing to appreciate one who would think so (K. Desay); c) express a certain opinion concerning somebody or something: It was wrong to have forced all this ordinaries upon her (K. Desay).

Some linguists distinguish five main constructions in which the adjective phrase is followed by a toinfinitive clause. They exemplify them in the following five sentences which are superficially similar, though only three out of five are “wholly concerned with adjective complementation” [12, p. 310].

Five structures suggested for the analysis are these: 1) Bob is splendid to wait; 2) Bob is slow to react; 3) Bob is furious to hear; 4) Bob is hesitant to agree with you; 5) Bob is hard to convince.

The last one (structure 5) is quite different from the first four as here “the subject of the sentence is the object of the infinitive which must therefore have a transitive verb” [12, p. 311]. The construction “*Bob is hard to arrive” will be incorrect.

Structure 1 may have as its analogue a construction involving extraposition. E.g.: “It is splendid of Bob to wait” or be alternative to a noun phrase that has as its head a degree noun or a generic noun modified by adjective. E.g.: Bob is a splendid man to wait.

In case of structure 4 the most common adjectives are those expressing willingness or unwillingness: eager, keen, willing, reluctant. Structure 3 often has causative character. E.g.: Bob is furious to hear that. > To hear it has made Bob furious. > It has made Bob furious to hear that.

The difference between the two structures that is between structures 3 and 4 lies in the fact that in structure 3 (Bob is furious to hear it) the head of the adjective phrase is an emotive adjective (commonly a participial adjective) while in structure 4 (Bob is hesitant to agree with you), the head of the adjective phrase is the volitional adjective. Structures 3 and 4 often admitfeel as a copula.

Structure 2 (Bob is slow to react) has an analogue in which the adjective is transformed into the adverbial. E.g.: Bob is slow to react. > Bob reacts slowly. [12, p. 310].

While speaking about adjective complementation by finite clause i.e. by thatclause some linguists classify adjectives that are used in this case into “factual”, “emotive” and “volitional”. “Factual” adjectives are concerned with the truthvalue of the complementation, “emotive” correspondingly with the attitude and “volitional” indirectly express some command [12, p. 310]. There is a certain interdependence between the type of the adjective and the mood of the verb used in the thatclause. In case of the “factual” adjective the verb in the clause is as a rule in the Indicative Mood. E.g.: I am aware that he was late. “Emotive” adjectives along with the indicative verbs can take should in the clause that follows. E.g.: I am amazed that he should have got the post. “Volitional” adjectives are used either with should in the clause or with the verbs that express desirability of the action. E.g.: He was insistent that they should be present [12, p. 310]. Sentences with emotive adjectives possess causative meaning.

Conclusions. The above makes possible to formulate several conclusions. The analyzed transformations serve as another proof that the use of different prepositions in case of phrasal complementation changes the meaning of the whole construction Vcop+Adj. The random selection shows that the most frequently used phrases are those with prepositions “of' and “at”.

Constructions with the toinfinitive and thatclause adjective complementation as well as models with some prepositional phrases possess causative meaning. The further investigation of this issue may admit including these structures as peripheral components into the macrofield of causativity.

In some cases structures with toinfinitive complementation prove that adjectives share some characteristics with adverbs as well as with semantically similar verbs. The fact accounts for the absence of a rigid line between parts of speech in English.


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R. Allen. The Hague ; Paris : Mouton&Co, 1966. 303 p.

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