The adjective expresses the categorial semantics of property of a substance. It means that each adjective used in tile text presupposes relation to some noun the property of whose referent it denotes, such as its material, colour, dimensions, position, state, and other characteristics both permanent and temporary. It follows from this that, unlike nouns, adjectives do not possess a full nominative value. Indeed, words like long, hospitable, fragrant cannot effect any self-dependent nominations; as units of informative sequences they exist only in collocations showing what is long, who is hospitable, what is fragrant.
The semantically bound character of the adjective is emphasized in
English by the use of the prop-substitute one in the absence of the notional head-noun of the phrase. E.g.:
I don't want a yellow balloon, let me have the green one over there.
On the other hand, if the adjective is placed in a nominatively self- dependent position, this leads to its substantivization. E.g.: Outside it was a beautiful day, and the sun tinged the snow with red. Cf.: The sun tinged the snow with the red colour.
Adjectives are distinguished by a specific combinability with nouns, which they modify, if not accompanied by adjuncts, usually in pre-position, and occasionally in postposition; by a combinability with link-verbs, both functional and notional; by a combinability with modifying adverbs.
In the sentence the adjective performs the functions of an attribute and a predicative. Of the two, the more specific function of the adjective is that of an attribute, since the function of a predicative can be performed by the noun as well. There is, though, a profound difference between the predicative uses of the adjective and the noun which is determined by their native categorial features. Namely, the predicative adjective expresses some attributive property of its noun-referent, whereas the predicative noun expresses various substantival characteristics of its referent, such as its identification or classification of different types.
This can be shown on examples analysed by definitional and transformational procedures. Cf.:
You talk to people as if they were a group. —> You talk to people as if they formed a group. Quite obviously, he was a friend. —> His behaviour was like that of a friend.
Cf., as against the above:
I will be silent as a grave. —> I will be like a silent grave. Walker felt healthy. —> Walker felt a healthy man. It was sensational. —> That fact was a sensational fact.
When used as predicatives or post-positional attributes, a considerable number of adjectives, in addition to the general combinability characteristics of the whole class, are distinguished by a complementive combinability with nouns. The complement-expansions of adjectives are effected by means of prepositions. E.g. fond of, jealous of, curious of, suspicious of; angry with, sick with, serious about, certain about, happy about; grateful to, thankful to, etc. Many such adjectival collocations render essentially verbal meanings and some of them have direct or indirect parallels among verbs. Cf.: be fond of—love, like; be envious of — envy; be angry with — resent; be mad for, about - covet; be thankful to — thank.
Alongside of other complementive relations expressed with the help of prepositions and corresponding to direct and prepositional object-relations of verbs, some of these adjectives may render relations of addressee. Cf.: grateful to, indebted to, partial to, useful for.
To the derivational features of adjectives belong a number of suffixes and prefixes of which the most important are:
Among the adjectival affixes should also be named the prefix a-, constitutive for the stative sub-class which is to be discussed below.
As for the variable (demutative) morphological features, the English adjective, having lost in the course of the history of English all its forms of grammatical agreement with the noun, is distinguished only by the hybrid category of comparison.
All the adjectives are traditionally divided into two large subclasses: qualitative and relative.
Relative adjectives express such properties of a substance as are determined by the direct relation of the substance to some other substance.
E.g.: wood — a wooden hut; mathematics — mathematical precision; history — a historical event; table — tabular presentation; colour — coloured postcards; surgery — surgical treatment; the Middle Ages — mediaeval rites.
The nature of this "relationship" in adjectives is best revealed by definitional correlations. Cf.: a wooden hut — a hut made of wood; a historical event — an event referring to a certain period of history; surgical treatment — treatment consisting in the implementation of surgery; etc.