Ratio of common nouns to derived/related & applied adjectives in inflected languages

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Lusus Naturae

Senior Member
Cantonese
For example, in English, in academic context, doctor has doctoral, master and bachelor could have had masteral and bacheloral but don't, student has studential according to the dictionary, but hardly ever used/applied.

Space has spatial; time has temporal, but either not applicable or not applied to time zone, time machine, time signature, time bomb, and more.

World has worldwide, global, mondial, which are applicable but not applied to World Cup, World War, and more.

It seems that in English, common nouns vastly outnumber derived, related, and applied adjectives. Does English have the highest ratio of common nouns to derived, related, and applied adjectives in any inflected language? What language has the lowest?

I don't factor proper nouns in because even very well-known names don't necessarily have applied adjectives, let alone the countless lesser-known ones.
 
  • Swatters

    Senior Member
    French - Belgium, some Wallo-Picard
    I'm not aware of any statistical analysis like you describe, but in Romance, relational adjectives like the ones you describe were massively reintroduced during the relatinisation of the languages and so mostly belong to a learned, largely unproductive stratum of vocabulary.

    Even in Latin, I think they were mostly the product of deliberate stylistic choices by the literate class rather than a truly productive aspect of the everyday language.
     

    Starless74

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    There are many factors involved here, I reckon:
    - Main language family;
    - Influence from other languages and/or language families (e.g. Latin over English);
    - Occurrence of such adjectives in the "influencing" language(s);
    - Custom/use.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I suppose English can be described as an inflectional language, but inflections are very few in number - the usual count is nine. The loss of inflections has led to some forms (as they appear in a dictionary) capable of being more than one part of speech. "Butter", for example, has different functions in each of:

    Don't forget to butter your bread.
    Put butter on your peas.
    Have a slice of butter cake.


    Whilst of course any word behaving like this must be inflected according to the part of speech, this shows that English has developed significant isolating tendencies.

    English, like other Germanic languages, also allows wordly generally considered to be nouns to be piled up. When that happens how you analyse the construction comes down to a matter of preference. In some languages adjectives can be considered distinct from nouns just as much because of their form as their function. Ignoring that some adjectives inflect for comparative and superlative and that some derivational affixes may indicate that the word is an adjective, adjectives are recognised more by their function than by their form.

    "Tennis court" can be analysed as (a) the whole phrase being a compound noun (the fact it is written as two words being irrelevant) (b) describing "tennis" as an attributive noun, noun adjunct or something similar (c) describing "tennis" as an adjective. We tend to think of nouns and adjectives as distinct, but in some contexts in English the distinction is blurred because nouns and adjectives cannot always be distinguised by their form. In Russian you have to form an adjective: "теннисный корт" (tennisniy kort). In French you need a preposition: "court de tennis". Neither language permits "tennis court".
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    I think German uses compound nouns (as opposed to adjective+noun) as much as English does attribute+noun, or even more if we consider the language doesn't have as much Latin influence. It's probably true of other Germanic languages I guess.

    and so mostly belong to a learned, largely unproductive stratum of vocabulary.
    I see -il (ingenieril) and -ístico (futbolístico) as the productive suffixes for adjectivization in Spanish right now. But it's true that in most of those pairs of nouns and adjectives, the latter is a borrowed Latinism.

    There's also (small) differences between Romance languages. Catalan has nadalenc and Spanish navideño for Christmas as an attributive, but I think they don't exist in other Romance languages.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think German uses compound nouns (as opposed to adjective+noun) as much as English does attribute+noun, or even more if we consider the language doesn't have as much Latin influence. It's probably true of other Germanic languages I guess.
    I have never studied German so cannot comment on whether it uses compound words more than English. It though important not to be mesmerised by the orthographic convention of writing compound nouns in German as one word. Both "Tennisplatz" and "tennis court" can be analysed in the same way. How words are written in English is rather arbitrary. A new coinage may start off being written as two words, then get hyphenated before ending up being written as one word.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    English simply uses appositioned nouns as adjectives. In Russian, for example, that kind of modifying is much, much less productive.

    Note that some languages may have 4-10 adjectives only (!), with the nouns being mostly modified by other nouns and/or verbal forms. Now that are the languages where common nouns really vastly outnumber adjectives. :)
    I think German uses compound nouns (as opposed to adjective+noun) as much as English does attribute+noun
    ...And the border is actually pretty vague in many cases.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Apposition is not the same thing as using nouns attributively. In apposition two nouns or noun phrases come next to each other with both essentially saying the same thing in different words or one expanding on the other. The order can be reversed without any change in meaning and if one element is removed the sentence still makes sense.

    The town hall, the red brick building in the main square, was built a hundred years ago

    means the same thing as

    The red brick building in the main square, the town hall, was built a hundred years ago

    and

    The town hall was built a hundred years ago

    and

    The red brick building in the main square was built a hundred years ago

    are both grammatical and give information about the same thing.

    On the other hand

    cake butter = butter intended to be used for making cakes

    while

    butter cake = a cake made with butter

    and

    The butter is on the table

    is not the same at all as

    The cake is on the table
     

    Lusus Naturae

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    I have never studied German so cannot comment on whether it uses compound words more than English. It though important not to be mesmerised by the orthographic convention of writing compound nouns in German as one word. Both "Tennisplatz" and "tennis court" can be analysed in the same way. How words are written in English is rather arbitrary. A new coinage may start off being written as two words, then get hyphenated before ending up being written as one word.
    I think for example North America can be seen as compound like Nordamerica and Nordamerika are.
    Is Northern Europe an open compound whereas Nordeuropa a closed one? Like terra firma & terraferma.
    I think sometimes a well-known enough combination of two or more words can be seen as compound , e.g., no-fly zone, intercontinental ballistic missile, North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
     
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