Tag Archives: adjective

Is a determiner a modifier?

In the present construction, the question arises of whether or not a determiner is a modifier. More specifically, is a definite or indefinite article (i.e. a determiner) a modifier of a noun. In the present model, an adjective is indeed a noun modifier. Is this not also the case for a definite article (the definite article ‘le’ (the), for example)? The answer is no. In fact, a modifier only modifies the meaning of the word to which it is applied. The consequence is that if the modifier is removed from the sentence in question, the sentence still conveys meaning and remains correctly formed. For example, in the sentence ‘le cheval blanc courait’ (the white horse was running), if we remove the noun modifier ‘blanc’ (white), the sentence ‘le cheval courait’ (the horse was running) remains correct. On the other hand, if we remove the determiner ‘le’ (the), we get the sentence ‘cheval blanc courait’ (white horse was running) which is incomplete and whose structure is not valid.

Adjective modifiers again

We will consider again a category of words such as ‘very’, when they precede an adjective. Traditionally, this category is termed ‘adverbs’ or ‘adverbs of degree’, but we prefer ‘adjective modifier’, because (i) analytically, they change the meaning of an adjective and (ii) synthetically, an adjective modifier followed by an adjective is still an adjective. A more complete list is: almost, absolutely, badly, barely, completely, decidedly, deeply, enormously, entirely, extremely, fairly, fully, greatly, hardly, highly, how, incredibly, intensely, less, most, much, nearly, perfectly, positively, practically, pretty, purely, quite, rather, really, scarcely, simply, somewhat, strongly, terribly, thoroughly, totally, utterly, very, virtually, well.

If we look at sentences such as: il est bien content (he is very happy, hè beddu cuntenti), ils étaient bien contents (they were very happy, erani beddi cuntenti), elle serait bien contente (she would be very happy, saria bedda cuntenti), elles sont bien contentes (they are very happy, sò beddi cuntenti), we can see that the modifier of the adjective ‘bien’ is rendered as very in English and in Corsican as:

  • bellu/beddu: singular masculine
  • belli/beddi: plural masculine
  • bella/bedda: feminine singular
  • belle/beddi: feminine plural

This shows that the adjective modifier is invariable in French and English, but varies in gender and number in Corsican. Thus, in Corsican grammar, it seems appropriate to distinguish between:

  • singular masculine adjective modifier
  • plural masculine adjective modifier
  • singular feminine adjective modifier
  • plural feminine adjective modifier

On the other hand, such a distinction does not seem useful in English and French, where the category of ‘adjective modifier’ is sufficient and there is no need for further detail.

Expanding on noun modulators

Let’s take a closer look at noun modulators, especially common noun modulators. We have seen that adjectives could be considered, in the present conceptual framework, as noun modulators. In this context, the question arises, are there other forms of noun modulators? It seems that there are.

Let us consider elements of sentences such as ‘bois de châtaignier’ (chestnut wood; legnu castagninu) or ‘oiseau de proie’ (bird of prey; aceddu di preda). In ‘bois de châtaignier’, ‘de châtaignier’ seems to play the role of noun modulator, in the same way as an adjective. In traditional grammar, ‘de châtaignier’ is considered as a noun complement. In the present framework, it would be a noun modulator, since it clarifies and restricts the meaning of the noun ‘bois’ (wood; legnu). The role of ‘de proie’ in ‘oiseau de proie’ is identical, as it acts as a modulator of the name ‘bird’.

Interestingly, it turns out that the comparison between languages tends to validate this type of analysis. Indeed, ‘bois de châtaignier’ is better translated in Corsican language by legnu castagninu than litterally by legnu di castagnu (chestnut wood); and in this case, castagninu (of chestnut) is an adjective, i.e. a noun modulator. Thus, castagninu and di castagnu being equivalent here, confirming in both cases their same nature of adjective modulator.