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Nominalisation of ordinary adjectives

Adjectives can be nominalised by means of affixes, and particularly suffixes, so that the resulting nouns can be said to have been derived from the corresponding adjectives. In addition to the set of derivational suffixes, such as -heid in goedheid goodness, -te in breedte width and -iteit in permissiwiteit permissiveness, the schwa is used to mark the nominalisation of certain adjectives, and is always preceded by an indefinite or indefinite article. Examples of such a construction with the adjective mooi beautiful follow:

'n mooi·e
a beautiful·NMLZ
a beautiful one
die mooi·e
the beautiful·NMLZ
the beautiful

The schwa, which is a multifunctional affix, can serve a derivational function when added to an adjective. When suffixed to doof deaf, for instance, the resultant noun, dowe, refers to a deaf person. Note that phonological rules applying to attributive adjectives Attribution of APs also become operational in the case of the schwa suffix.

In this discussion it will be shown that nominalisation of adjectives by means of the schwa may lead to different functions and meanings, depending on the relevant adjective affected. The following example seems to be parallel to the case of doof deaf above:

die goei·e (goed·e)
the good·NMLZ
the good (one)

However, without any context, die goeie is ambiguous between two readings. The phrase could refer in the linguistic context to a countable common noun, to distinguish it from another or others, and which may have a plural form, as in this sentence:

Sy is onder die goeies in haar klas.
she is under the good.ones in her class
She is among the good ones in her class.

However, goeie may also have a reading in which it refers to the property of being good, of which two examples are given below:

Lewe jy vir die goeie of die genotvolle?
live you for the good or the pleasurable
Do you live for what is good or what is enjoyable?
Plato se definisie van die goeie.
Plato PTCL.GEN definition of the good
Plato's definition of the good.

In the case of the adjective groot big / large, the nominalised form is disambiguated orthographically, by means of two different spellings, grote big one and grootte size, although the pronunciation of the two forms is identical:

Die grote (groot·e) het weggekom.
the big·NMLZ has gotten.away
The big one got away.
Die grootte (groot·te) maak nie saak nie.
the bigness makes not matter PTCL.NEG
The size does not matter.

The construction is often used to denote an aspect of a matter:

Die snaakse van die situasie was ...
the funny·NMLZ of the situation was ...
What was funny about the situation was ...
Die frustrerende was dat ...
the frustrating was that.COMP
What was frustrating was that ...

It can also be used with non-subjective set-denoting adjectives:

Die rooi van daardie serp pas goed by jou rok.
the red of that scarf fits well with your dress
The red colour of that scarf combines well with your dress.

Note that in the example above, the colour name does not require a schwa suffixed to the adjective, and thus represents an instance of zero-derivation (Ponelis 1979:484).

Die vinnigste is om die taxi te neem.
the fastest is for.COMP the taxi PTCL.INF take.INF
The fastest is to take the taxi.
  • Ponelis, F.A1979Afrikaanse sintaksis.Van Schaik
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