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We have now looked at the main criteria for the adjective class - gradability, comparative and superlative forms, and the ability to occur attributively and predicatively. Most adjectives fulfil all these criteria, and are known as CENTRAL adjectives. Those which do not fulfil all the criteria are known as PERIPHERAL adjectives.  

We will now examine the adjective class in more detail.

Inherent and Non-inherent Adjectives

Most attributive adjectives denote some attribute of the noun which they modify. For instance, the phrase a red car may be said to denote a car which is red. In fact most adjective-noun sequences such as this can be loosely reformulated in a similar way:  
an old man ~a man who is old
difficult questions ~questions which are difficult
round glasses ~glasses which are round

This applies equally to postpositive adjectives: 

      something understood   ~something which is understood  
      the people responsible   ~the people who are responsible   
In each case the adjective denotes an attribute or quality of the noun, as the reformulations show. Adjectives of this type are known as INHERENT adjectives. The attribute they denote is, as it were, inherent in the noun which they modify.  

However, not all adjectives are related to the noun in the same way. For example, the adjective small in a small businessman does not describe an attribute of the businessman. It cannot be reformulated as a businessman who is small. Instead, it refers to a businessman whose business is small. We refer to adjectives of this type as NON-INHERENT adjectives. They refer less directly to an attribute of the noun than inherent adjectives do. Here are some more examples, showing the contrast betwen inherent and non-inherent:  

distant hills distant relatives
a complete chapter a complete idiot
a heavy burden a heavy smoker
a social survey a social animal
an old man an old friend

Stative and Dynamic Adjectives

As their name suggests, STATIVE adjectives denote a state or condition, which may generally be considered permanent, such as big, red, small. Stative adjectives cannot normally be used in imperative constructions: 
      *Be big/red/small  
Further, they cannot normally be used in progressive constructions: 
      *He is being big/red/small 
In contrast, DYNAMIC adjectives denote attributes which are, to some extent at least, under the control of the one who possesses them. For instance, brave denotes an attribute which may not always be in evidence (unlike red, for example), but which may be called upon as it is required. For this reason, it is appropriate to use it in an imperative:  
      Be brave
Dynamic adjectives include: 
All dynamic adjectives can be used in imperatives (Be careful!, Don't be cruel!), and they can also be used predicatively in progressive constructions:  
      Your son is being disruptive in class  
      My parents are being foolish again  
      We're being very patient with you 
The majority of adjectives are stative. The stative/dynamic contrast, as it relates to adjectives, is largely a semantic one, though as we have seen it also has syntactic implications.  
More on Adjectives...

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