adjectives and word classes

Frans Plank Frans.Plank at UNI-KONSTANZ.DE
Wed Apr 5 12:01:45 UTC 2006

though it is perhaps tangential to the current issue:  German colour
adjectives such as ROSA, LILA, SEPIA (ditto non-colour PRIMA 'fine', EXTRA,
SOLO, ANDERSWO 'elsewhere', SOLALA, K.O. (/ka:.o:/), O.K. (/,
SPITZE 'top', KLASSE 'high-class', etc.) are not peculiar
*morphologically*.  Their morphological behaviour is epiphenomenal:  it's
their *phonology* (final coda vowel) which is to blame.  I don't think one
would want to set up a special inflection class for that.


>Martin writes: "Most descriptions of German would not say that /rosa/ and
>/lila/ belong to a different part of speech than /schwarz/ 'black' and
>/rot/ 'red'; instead, they would say that they belong to a special
>inflection class of adjectives."
>Most descriptions of Finnish distinct between nouns and adjectives,
>although they belong to identical morhological patterns; the part-of-speech
>distinction cannot be made on morphological grounds. Genuine colour terms
>in Finnish are of two types, with or without a "typically adjective" suffix
>-ne/-se (in some cases both occur):
>- musta 'black'; vihreä 'green'; ruskea 'brown'; harmaa 'grey'
>- valkea OR valko-i-nen 'white'
>- puna-i-nen 'red'; sini-nen 'blue'; kelta-i-nen 'yellow';
>Later loan-words are of the first type (cf. Italian and German _lila_
>etc.), though they are regularly inflected:
>oranssi 'orange'; beige, beessi 'beige'; turkoosi 'turquoise'; pinkki,
>roosa 'pink'; li(i)la 'violet'
>In Russian, colour terms are inflected as adjectives; the newer borrowings
>also tend to move over to this pattern (at least, in colloquial speech),
>even if codified as non-inflected:
>bordo > bordo-vyj 'bordeaux'; bezh > bezhevyj 'beige'
>lil-o-vyj 'violet'; roz-o-vyj 'pink', turkoz-nyj 'turqoise', lazor-e-vyj,
>lazur-nyj 'azure, sky-blue'; oranzhe-vyj 'orange'
>At 14:00 4.4.2006, Martin Haspelmath wrote:
>>The same is true in German, though to a lesser extent: The colour
>>adjectives /rosa/ 'pink' and /lila/ 'purple/violet' do not inflect, at
>>least in the standard language (colloquially, they tend to exhibit
>>ordinary adjectival inflection, following an additional consonant /-n-/:
>>/rosanes/ etc.).
>>These cases illustrate a larger point: It is very difficult or even
>>impossible to make a principled distinction between "parts of speech" (the
>>subject of David Gil's query) and "inflection classes". Most descriptions
>>of German would not say that /rosa/ and /lila/ belong to a different part
>>of speech than /schwarz/ 'black' and /rot/ 'red'; instead, they would say
>>that they belong to a special inflection class of adjectives. But
>>according to Dixon 2004 (the paper in the volume "Adjective classes"), any
>>morphosyntactic distinction can be regarded as sufficient to set up a
>>separate part of speech. I'm sure there are languages that are described
>>as having a verb/adjective distinction, but where the only difference is
>>that verbs inflect but adjectives don't.
>>So it isn't clear to me that David's query is different from the question
>>whether there are further languages where different colour words have
>>different morphosyntactic properties.
>>nigel vincent wrote:
>>>Italian has some colour adjectives which are in origin nouns and hence do
>>>not agree, e.g./ rosa / 'pink',/ viola/ 'purple',/ crema/ 'cream',/
>>>bordeaux/, this last usually translated in English as 'burgundy' even
>>>though oenophiles will know they refer to entirely different beverages!
>>Hannu Tommola
>>Professor of Russian Language, School of Modern Languages and Translation
>>FIN-33014 University of Tampere, Finland
>>Tel.: +358-(0)3-3551 6102, Fax:(0)3-3551 7200

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