?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-08-19 03:32
Subject: [language] Parts of speech confusion
Security: Public
Tags:language

O mighty LJ brain, hear my plea. I have confused myself anent matters grammatical.

There’s a construction in English whereby nouns convert to adjectives through being modified with an /-ed/ affix, as if they were verbs being conjugated into the simple past. For example:

one eyed
lop eared
left handed
many splendored
fruited plains
strait jacketed

Most of the examples I can think of are related to body parts or clothing, but not all of them. Some examples can be explained as verb forms (”strait jacketed”), but, for example, I can’t make “lop eared” be a verb in my head.

Why are we conjugating nouns into adjectives? Can someone give me the remedial grammar 101 on this?

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Post A Comment | 16 Comments | | Flag | Link






Ninjakitten: e equals mc squared...
User: ninjakitten
Date: 2008-08-19 11:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:e equals mc squared...
Hrm.

Looking them over, they all translate from "Xed" to "having X" -- i.e., having many splendours, having one eye, having lop ears -- except for left-handed. "Having a preference for using the left hand" works to expand it, but it's not a perfect idea. Still, I think there's something in it...
Reply | Thread | Link



russ: romanes eunt domus
User: goulo
Date: 2008-08-19 12:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:romanes eunt domus
Dr. Grammar doesn't know either.

I'd take it as evidence that the rigid pigeonholing of words as strictly either noun or verb or adjective is against the way we naturally want to think in a language.
Reply | Thread | Link



Ann Leckie
User: ann_leckie
Date: 2008-08-19 13:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This. I don't see any problem with adjectiving nouns, or verbing them, or whatever. It's one of those things English does.

Also, I don't think "fruited plains" belongs in that list. It's a straightforward noun with an adjective. The others in the list are functioning as adjectives.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



russ: romanes eunt domus
User: goulo
Date: 2008-08-19 14:28 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:romanes eunt domus
"Fruited" does not seem like a straightforward adjective. (Unless you consider "killed" in "the killed victims were found yesterday" to be a straightforward adjective.) "Fruited" is clearly an -ed form from the base word "fruit". One might argue that it's from the verb "fruit", not the noun "fruit", however.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Ann Leckie
User: ann_leckie
Date: 2008-08-19 16:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But you wouldn't use "fruited plains" as an adjective. You might say, for instance, "I threw a lop-eared bunny at that straight-jacketed man." Both times the phrases are used to modify nouns. But you wouldn't say, "I saw the fruited plains country." So it's out of place in the list.

"Fruited" is clearly an -ed form from the base word "fruit". One might argue that it's from the verb "fruit", not the noun "fruit", however.

Fruited is a pretty straightforward adjective. There's a whole raft of similar adjectives in English. Fluted, bored, twisted, flaked, pressed, hydrated, scorned, &c, not to mention non-ed ones, like driven, woven, etc. Just because the root word is one we think of as a verb doesn't mean that it retains verbness in all cases. I'd say that when you use it to modify a noun, it's an adjective. "That plain is green." "That plain is fruited." Unless you're going to argue that "green" might be a verb (you could make it into one, but not for that sentence), you can't really argue that "fruited" is. Same for nouns--green can easily be used for a noun, so can fruit, but neither word is acting like a noun in the sentences above.








Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



russ: romanes eunt domus
User: goulo
Date: 2008-08-19 18:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:romanes eunt domus
Ah, I see what you mean, and agree; Jay's list gave various adjective-ed noun examples, and only "fruited plains" had a noun with the adjective-ed noun (for whatever reason). Sorry, I misunderstood and thought you were only talking about the word "fruited" in "fruited plains"!

As for "fruited" and (the undefined) concept of "straightforward"-ness, I just meant that a derived adjective like "fruited" is less straightforwardly an adjective than something like "green", since it is, well, derived.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



bram452
User: bram452
Date: 2008-08-19 13:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm with ninjakitten, except that "handed" doesn't bug me. I think of handedness as a quality rather than a preference. I did notice that your examples are all involving an adjective (lop) then a noun (ear) with a suffix (-ed).

There are examples that don't have that too. The coated pill, the filmed event.

And we're conjugating nouns into adjectives because we can, man. Because we *can*. (another example: Any noun can be verbed. See: verbed. Calvin's commentary: Verbing weirds language.)


Plus which "monocular" is just showing off and "sinister" has a lot of baggage.
Reply | Thread | Link



Rose Fox
User: rosefox
Date: 2008-08-19 13:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My favorite is still a friend who told her daughter "Ajar the door", to which the daughter responded "Stop verbing adjectives!".
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



Rose Fox: words
User: rosefox
Date: 2008-08-19 13:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:words
Why wouldn't we turn nouns into adjectives? *puzzle* Adjectives are attributes, things that an object possesses. Attributes can very easily be nouns. Another way of making adjectives is -al: parental, electoral. Or -an: urban, diocesan. Or -ic: energetic, lethargic. All those adjectives have nouns at their roots.

The -ed suffix mimics the past tense, but isn't the same; it's a way of folding in a possessive preposition like "of" or "with". So instead of "the garden of many splendors" you get "the many-splendor'd garden"; instead of the "the man with one eye" you get "the one-eye'd man". No coincidence, I suspect (though cannot prove), that in Latin languages "de" or "di" or "d'" means "of" or "with".
Reply | Thread | Link



(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Rose Fox: sarcasm
User: rosefox
Date: 2008-08-19 15:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:sarcasm
Er... you're welcome? Sorry, it's morning and I can't tell whether you're being sarcastic!
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Rose Fox
User: rosefox
Date: 2008-08-19 17:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ah, okay! Glad you liked it, then. *)
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



jeffsoesbe: bald man thinking
User: jeffsoesbe
Date: 2008-08-19 17:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:bald man thinking
I learned some Spanish and French in the past and you are right: in those languages of/with usually translates as "de" or "d'".

Examples:
(french) "Jay's hat" = "chapeau de Jay"; "songs of love" = "chansons d'amour"

(spanish) "cow's head" = "cabeza de vaca"; "goat's blood" = "sangre de cabra"

I believe Italian works the same way, using "di".

- yeff
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



paulcarp: pic#67230600
User: paulcarp
Date: 2008-08-19 16:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:pic#67230600
Interesting question/observation. I'm glad this bald-headed man could set down his ragged-paged book to look at the seriously-written LiveJournal entry before getting in his four-wheeled vehicle to turn in his ticked off (ha ha) primary ballot.

In school I was never taught why, merely that you could form adjectives by making compound words of nouns in this way.
Reply | Thread | Link



User: elizaeffect
Date: 2008-08-19 17:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, I guess I always thought it had to do with the compounding. I've seen all of Jay's examples above, but all except "strait jacketed" and "fruited plains" were glommed together with a dash. Other people have explained why "fruited" doesn't fit on this list, and I've always seen "straitjacket" used as one word.

Actually, seeing people use compounded words that way, without the dash, is a pet peeve of mine. I don't know whether it's in any manual of style, but it feels wrong to me.

As to why we do it...I don't know. It feels like one of those semi-archaic things that you don't learn in grammar class anymore and only pick up by reading a lot.
Reply | Parent | Thread | Link



AndyHat
User: andyhat
Date: 2008-08-19 17:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A bit of googling comes up with the term "denominal adjective," or even more specifically, "suffixal denominal adjective". Appears to be one of those concepts that comes up in EFL texts and linguistics papers, but is taken for granted in grammar texts for native speakers.
Reply | Thread | Link



User: deireanach
Date: 2008-08-20 00:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, I think you're converting past participles into adjectives.

For example: eye / eyed / eyed vs. drive / drove / driven

Weak English verbs (those which take -ed in the past tense) vs. strong English verbs (those which change their vowel in the past tense) shows it most clearly. Verbs which were nouns are weak (eye, ear, hand, splendor, fruit, jacket...) which means they take -ed to form the past participle. Compare phrases with the strong version of the past particple: hard driven, closely woven, well written, badly mistaken, etc.
Reply | Thread | Link



browse
my journal
links
January 2014
2012 appearances