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Semantic classification of adjectives

Adjectives can be classified into four groups on the basis of their meaning, namely (a) set-denoting adjectives, as in die lang gedig the long poem, (b) relational adjectives, as in die Kaapse meisies the Capetonian girls, (c) subjectively evaluating adjectives, as in daardie vervlakste skobbejak that damned scoundrel, and (d) a remaining, somewhat heterogenous group, here called residual adjectives, which includes intensifiers, such as absolute onsin absolute nonsense, and quantifying adjectives, such as verskeie probleme various problems.

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Adjectives can be semantically classified in four groups, each characterised by a common meaning-related feature. Because most adjectives share the property that they can occur in the attributive construction, this construction can be viewed as the canonical construction for adjectives.

1. The first group, known as set-denoting adjectives, assign an objective descriptive property to the argument. In the following example, the property “spookagtig” is assigned to the nounatmosfeer atmosphere: Die spookagtige atmosfeer maak hom nie bang nie. the ghostly atmosphere makes him not afraid PTCL.NEG The ghostly atmosphere does not scare him.

2. The second group, relational adjectives, do not express a property so much as a classifying relation between two entities. In die Kaapse meisies the Capetonian girls, a relation is established between girls and the city of Cape Town. The phrase can be paraphrased as "girls from Cape Town". Geographical adjectives are almost always relational. Other examples include 'n mediese handboek a medical handbook en ons daaglikse brood our daily bread.

3. Subjectively evaluating adjectives, the third group, express a judgment with an emotional connotation, as in daardie vervlakste skobbejak that damned scoundrel. Adjectival curses characteristically belong here.

4. The last group, a rest category, hence called residual adjectives, includes subcategories such as intensifiers, e.g. absolute onsin absolute nonsense, and quantifying adjectives like my volle steun my full support.

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