Adjectives and Nouns

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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 
In each of the following sentences, indicate whether the highlighted word is an adjective or a noun. 
1. Life insurance is not cheap. Adjective 
2. The Prime Minister is a close friend of mine. Adjective 
3. The Chinese Embassy is just down the road. Adjective 
4. Friday is a busy day for me. Adjective 
5. Our patient records are confidential. Adjective 

More on Adjectives...

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