Tag Archives: grammatical typology

An analysis of French word ‘très’

According to our analysis, the word ‘très’ is likely to occur in the following grammatical types:

  • Adjective modifier: here, ‘très’ modifies the meaning of an adjective: très beau (very beautiful, biddisimu), très content (very happy, cuntentissimu)
  • Adverb modifier: ‘très’ here modifies the meaning of an adverb: ‘très rarement’ = very rarely, raramenti; ‘très souvent’ = very often, mori à spessu
  • Adverb (i.e. in our terminology, a Verb modifier): ‘very’ modifies here the meaning of a verb: ‘j’ai très faim’ = I am very hungry, t’aghju mori fami; ‘il avait très soif’ = he was very thirsty, t’aia mori seti: where the verb is here the verbal locution ‘avoir faim’ = to be hungry, avè a fami; avoir soif = to be thirsty, avè a seti

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.

Updating our grammatical typology

We now have the following categories in our grammatical taxonomy:

  • determinants
  • nouns
  • pronouns
  • verbs
  • prepositions and postpositions
  • determinant modifiers
  • noun modifiers, i.e. adjectives
  • adjective modifiers
  • verb modifiers, i.e. adverbs (but in a restricted sense with regard to classical grammar)
  • adverb (still in a restricted sense) modifiers

To be noted: the classical category of adverbs comprises here the following categories:

  • adjective modifiers
  • verb modifiers
  • adverb modifiers

On the category of adverb modifiers

Let’s continue to rethink the gruesome (so is it argued here) category of adverbs (in the classical sense). Let’s now turn our attention to the category of ‘adverb modifiers’. Adverbs are understood here in a restricted sense: they are either verb modifiers or proposition modifiers. In this context, we are likely to encounter adverb modifiers. In general, the adverb modifier precedes the adverb. Thus, very (‘très’) is an adverb modifier in the sequence he was eating very rarely (il mangeait très rarement’, manghjava mori raramenti).

Likewise more (‘plus’, più) is in some cases an adverb modifier. This is the case in the sequence he was drinking more frequently (‘il buvait plus fréquemment’, biia più suventi).

The status of adjective modifiers

What is the status of adjective modifiers (tant, tout juste, un rien, un tantinet, très, extrêmement, … = so much, just a little, a little, a little, very, extremely, …) in the present grammatical typology? Adjectives are defined as noun modifiers. So adjective modifiers would be modifiers of noun modifiers? This sounds intriguing. In reality, we do not have the concept of ‘modifiers of modifiers’. In fact, we have the following rules:

  • a verb modifier followed by a verb is a verb
  • a determinant modifier followed by a determinant is a determinant
  • and generally speaking, a modifier of an X followed by an X is an X (where X is a given grammatical type)
    So a noun modifier followed by a noun is a noun, i.e. an adjective followed by a noun is a noun. For example: ‘un très beau livre’ (a very nice book), where ‘very’ is an adjective modifier, ‘nice’ is an adjective, i.e. a noun modifier, and ‘book’ is a noun.
    Hence finally, ‘an adjective modifier is a modifier of a noun modifier’ reads as follows: an adjective modifier is a modifier of [noun modifier].