MeN--kan adjectives in Indonesian

Waruno Mahdi mahdi at
Wed Jun 20 18:08:33 UTC 2001

Sorry to be so slow. Had been away for a couple of days, and am only
gradually digging down through my accumulated mail.

> Peristiwa yang 	menyedihkan 	itu...
> Incident  REL 	saddening 	that
> '(The incident which was saddening=) The saddening incident...'
> Question 1: How productive is this form of complex adjective? Are
> many others besides "menyedihkan" generated, or is there a set stock
> of them in use?

This is not so simple, because the expression you are considering is
actually aligned in a continuous chain of constructions beginning with
the underlying relative phrase with verbal predicate in the causative
form, and ending with the "adjective". To see what's happening with
the underlying verb form along the chain, compare the following:

(a) peristiwa itu menyedihkan saya 'the incident saddens me'
(b) p. itu menyedihkan orang 'the i.  makes people sad'
(c) peristiwa itu menyedihkan 'the i. is saddening'
(d) saya rasa, p. itu menyedihkan 'I feel that the i. is saddening'
(e) menurut saya, p. itu menyedihkan 'according to me, the i. is saddening'
(f) bagi saya, p. itu menyedihkan 'for me, the i. is saddening'
(g) p. itu menyedihkan bagi saya 'for me, the i. is saddening'

At some point in the chain, the transitive verb form "menyedihkan" turns
into an adjective. As any teacher of standard Indonesian will be sure to
tell you, construction (g) is "strictly forbidden" for that verb form --
i.e. for the underlying causative verb form which is transitive as indicated
in (a) -- so that the preposition would seem to be redundant. It is indeed
redundant for the original verb form, but not anymore for the cognate
'adjective' to which it has become converted in (c-g).

(h) tadi ada p. yang menyedihkan 'there was a saddenning i. just now'

Here, _yang menyedihkan_ is a relative clause, in which the predicate is
the 'adjective' as in (c). So, I wouldn't call itu a "complex adjective",
but just a relative clause. Strictly speaking, you could also say:

(i) tadi ada peristiwa menyedihkan 'id.'

There also is

(j) tadi ada p. yang menyedihkan saya 'there was an i. that saddenned me'
             (and hence, also: peristiwa yang menyedihkan saya itu.....
                              'that incident which saddens me.... )

where the verb form in the predicate of the relative clause is the
transitive verb form in (a).

Note, that combination with modifiers of degrees of comparison (lebih
'comparative', paling 'superlative', sangat 'intensive', kurang
'deficient', terlalu 'excessive') in Indonesian cannot serve as ultimate
test for differentiating adjectives from verbs. Some verbs can also
take them. E.g. you can insert them before the verb in (a-b) just as
before the adjective in (c-g). So I'm a bit uncertain about whether
calling the predicate-base in (c-q) an 'adjective' is correct. I'd
in any case be careful about using the term in this context.

Question 1a: is construction (a)/(j) productive? yes, very much so.
Question 2b: is construction (c-g)/(h) productive? yes, but originally,
   (g) was not considered proper by purist grammaticians, because
   it was simply seen as construction (a) with redundant preposition.
   However, as I tried to demonstrate above, _menyedihkan_ in (g) is
   not formally identical with _menyedihkan_ in (a). In the actually
   spoken language, the shift from (a) to (c-g) is relatively
   productive. Other examples:

mempesonakan `amazing', menakjubkan 'id.', mengharukan 'moving, touching',
menggembirakan 'pleasing', membosankan 'boring, tiresome', menjengkelkan
'sickening, upsetting, memusingkan 'confusing, dizzying', membingungkan
'puzzling, bewildering', menyesatkan 'misleading', etc.

> Question 2: Could the corresponding di-form "disedihkan" ('saddened')
> also be used in an adjectival way, or is it always a verb (if a
> clear-cut distinction between adjectives and verbs in Indonesian can
> be drawn)?

For construction (a) yes: it involves a transitive verb form, hence it
is likely to have a passive counterpart. Nevertheless, I think that
alternatives (q-s) below for expressing the same thing would generally
be felt preferable to (p):

(p) saya disedihkan oleh p. itu 'I am saddenned by that i.'
(q) saya disedihkan oleh adanya p. itu 'I am saddenned by the happening
                                        of that i.'
(r) saya dibuat sedih oleh p. itu  'I am made sad by that i.'
(s) saya menjadi sedih dengan p. itu 'II became sad because of that i.'
For construction (c-g) not very likely, I'd suppose, from the obvious
consideration that an intransitive predicative wouldn't be expected to
normally have a passive-voice counterpart. If analogical expressions
involving a di-...-kan form indeed exist, I expect they would have to
result from an independent semantic shift of the (a)-to-(c-g) type.

(u) perbuatan itu tidak dibenarkan olehnya
                         'that deed is not approved by him'
(v) perbuatan itu tidak dibenarkan orang
                         'that deed is not approved by people'
(w) perbuatan itu tidak dibenarkan
                         'that deed is not [generally] approved'
(x) bagi saya, perbuatan itu tidak dibenarkan
                         'for me, that deed is not [something that
                          is] approved
(y) perbuatan itu tidak dibenarkan bagi saya 'id.'

and hence .....

(z) perbuatan yang tidak dibenarkan itu .....
   'the deed that is not [generally] approved....'

However, in such instances one would generally tend to take recourse
to already-intransitive passive verb forms such as forms with ter-,
e.g. terkutuk 'cursed', terlarang 'forbidden', terpuji 'praised',
terkenal 'wellknown', tersohor 'reknowned', etc.
Note also numerous forms with ter-...-kan (for some reason more often
used negatively, i.e. with _tidak_): e.g. tidak terhentikan 'unstoppable',
tidak terkendalikan 'uncontrollable', tidak terlupakan 'unforgetable', etc.
Beside ter- forms there also are a few ke- and ke-...-an forms, e.g.
tidak ketahuan 'undiscoverable, undetectable', tidak ketolongan 'not
to helped [anymore]', etc.
([standard] tidak terbayarkan = [colloquial] tidak kebayar 'unpayable').

Hope any of this was any help.

Salam,   Waruno

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