1

This (titular) assertion is questionable, so I'm (1) putting it in quotes, and (2) placing an asterisk in front of it.

The following page starts with this assertion, which I had not heard before :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_equivalents_of_adjectives

The Japanese language does not have words that function as adjectives in a syntactic sense – that is to say that tree diagrams of Japanese sentences can be constructed without employing adjective phrases. [citation needed]

Nevertheless, there are words that function as adjectives in a semantic sense.

[citation needed] ! ! !

Is this a commonly heard notion?

For example :

  • 立派で赤い花
  • 背が高く赤い花が立派なこの植物の名前を教えてください。

It's not obvious how Parse Trees of these strings (above) would be any different from Parse Trees of English strings of similar meanings.

–- that is to say, a tree diagram (or a parse tree) of the latter Japanese string (the sentence) seems like it would be a great example to illustrate [adjective phrases] in Japanese.

This Jp wikipedia page doesn't have anything on it: Wikipedia 形容詞

Any ideas?

  • 2
    The assertion on Wikipedia is incoherent. – snailcar Oct 12 '16 at 23:13
  • @HizHa oh, sorry about my edit(request), didn't recognize to be a citation. – Yuki Inoue Oct 12 '16 at 23:33
  • As the younger folks say, "No worries." – HizHa Oct 12 '16 at 23:40
  • Does this post answer you? japanese.stackexchange.com/q/1008/7810 – broccoli forest Oct 16 '16 at 4:16
  • Thank you. That's excellent. I wonder why/when all these people disappeared. ( They are all gone from the Ling.SE too.) – HizHa Oct 16 '16 at 17:32
2

Essentially, this is saying that syntactically adjectives work the same as verbs. For example:

Japanese:

  • 食べる犬
  • 犬が食べる
  • 赤い犬
  • 犬が赤い

English:

  • The dog that eats
  • The dog eats
  • The red dog
  • The dog is red

Note that in English you can't say "The that eats dog", "The dog red", "The dog that red" etc. You have to construct the sentences differently depending on whether you're describing the dog with a verb or adjective. This isn't the case in Japanese. If the only thing you knew about a word was how it fit into a sentence, you couldn't tell if it was a verb or an adjective -- but you could in English, because of the extra "that"s and "is"es. That's the argument.

(Note that adjectives do have different morphology, i.e. inflection, than verbs. That isn't what Wikipedia is talking about.)

  • FWIW, I don't think the Wikipedia article is written very well -- the verbiage is hyperspecific in ways that obscure useful meaning. One could pose the alternative argument that Japanese has no words that function syntactically as verbs, since we don't need relative pronouns to create relative clauses -- i.e., verbs can be used attributively the same as adjectives. But that's not a terribly useful statement to make. Similarly, it is not really useful to state that Japanese doesn't have adjectives. – Eiríkr Útlendi Oct 13 '16 at 8:24
  • 1
    Yah, I probably wouldn't put it the way the Wikipedia article does either. It would be much clearer to say that verbs and adjectives are not "syntactically distinct," rather than implicitly assuming verb as the base class and declaring adjectives absent. (And that's not even getting into what exactly is covered by "syntax"...) – Matt Oct 13 '16 at 10:34
  • Thank you -- you seem to have explained it well, but i still can't grasp it. I'm still chewing on it. – HizHa Oct 15 '16 at 6:45
  • 1
    Thanks to the link to the excellent page, your answer makes a lot more sense. ______ japanese.stackexchange.com/q/1008/16344 (From the excellent page from 5 years ago) ___ And indeed, the English adjectives are not quite adjectives in the classical sense, and the line is actually quite blurred between nouns and adjectives in English (Is 'winter' in "winter clothes" an adjective or a noun? And what about 'Hollywood' in "a typical Hollywood ending"?). In fact, English adjectives resemble the na-adjectives of Japanese more than Latin (and French, German, Spanish and Hebrew) adjectives. – HizHa Oct 16 '16 at 17:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.