Home » Education » LiBRI: The Dynamism of Free Combinations Concerning a Part of Speech: The Adjective in French


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LiBRI: The Dynamism of Free Combinations Concerning a Part of Speech: The Adjective in French

This paper is related to peculiar aspects of French grammar, namely the adjectival behaviour along its evolution from free combinations. The analysis starts from the status of the adjective as modifier of a noun to the one of being a modifier of itself (nominalization), to verbal modifier. The author of this paper, Daniela Bordea, provides linguists and grammarians with a careful study of the values of the adjective, from the so called free combinations to free forms. Also, there is defined and explained the adjectival release process followed by the analysis of the characteristics and values of the adjectival release placed in contrast with those of the adjective in free combination.


Actual approaches concerning the adjective are briefly presented so as to offer a general framework of the item under study.

First to be discussed is the abstract prototype of the adjective, which relates to the acceptance of two main ideas: some grammatical categories are placed at hazy boundaries; and the possibility of interchangeable transitions. The author highlights the fact that this type of grammatical transition relates, in fact, to the idea that a linguistic item does not change its category, as it keeps its morphological identity and its syntax while borrowing superficially some of the characteristics of the other part of speech.

As part of the speech system, the adjective may be defined and analysed in comparison with the other parts of speech, considering its extension and the degree of incidence. That being given, specialists observed that adjectives have a greater extension than nouns. As for the level of incidence, the adjective describes something of which meaning is not comprised within the adjective itself. This means that this part of speech is characterized by grammatical incompleteness and so, it cannot have a full semantic meaning alone.

Further, the adjective in free combination model is, according to the point of view of M. Noially, found in a dynamic perspective and it represents a special grammatical behaviour on the side of the adjective, which proves that the adjective may change its category (by nominalization and adverbialization) being, consequently, a flexible category.

Bordea conducts a case study so as to obtain a better observation of how the adjective passes from free combinations to free forms. The author emphasises the fact that the farther from other constituents an adjective is placed, the more independent it is.  Free forms may be observed in the cases when the adjective does not describe a noun, but represents alone an abstract concept (le beau, l’utile), classifies according to certain features (un timide) or modifies directly verbal processes (voter utile).

The main manners of using adjectives as free forms are still the nominalisation and adverbialization. The former can be realised through anaphoric constructions (called Noun Phrase without a noun); elliptical nomination (by creating a more or less referential category); ellipsis through adjectives expressing relationship (les municipales- élections); and adjectives employed as heads of the Noun Phrase (calme → le calme, agreable → l’agreable. The “adverbal” adjective is, in fact, an adverb functioning as adjective: une femme bien, la portiere avant.

The last part of this paper deals with the analysis of adjectives in free combination, their semantic relationships, specific mechanisms of free combination, the characteristic parameters to delimit the degree of liberation, the properties of adjectives in free combination together with their variation depending on their being either nominalised or adverbialised.

To conclude her study, the author observes that the free combination of adjectives is a dynamic process realised through a linear mechanism; for an adjective to be in free combination must be independent from its nominal support in case of nominalisation; and dependent on a grammatical support in the case of adverbialisation; and that the free combination of adjectives is characterised by an intensional parameter.

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Iuliana-Alexandra Fleșcan-Lovin-Arseni