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COMPOUND ADJECTIVES




Compound adjectives regularly correspond to free phrases. Thus, for example, the type threadbare consists of a noun stem and an adjective stem. The relation underlying this combination corresponds to the phrase ‘bare to the thread’. Examples are: airtight, bloodthirsty, carefree, heartfree, media-shy, noteworthy, pennywise, poundfoolish, seasick, etc.

The type has a variant with a different semantic formula: snow-white means ‘as white as snow’, so the underlying sense relation in that case is emphatic comparison, e. g. dog-tired, dirt-cheap, stone-deaf. Examples are mostly connected with colours: blood-red, sky-blue, pitch-black; with dimensions and scale: knee-deep, breast-high, nationwide, life-long, world-wide.

The red-hot type consists of two adjective stems, the first expressing the degree or the nuance of the second: white-hot, light-blue, reddish-brown.

The same formula occurs in additive compounds of the bitter-sweet type correlated with free phrases of the type adjective1and adjective2 {bitter and sweet) that are rather numerous in technical and scholarly vocabulary: social-economic, etc. The subgroup of Anglo-Saxon has been already discussed.

The peace-loving type consisting of a noun stem and a participle stem, is very productive at present. Examples are: breath-taking,


freedom-loving, soul-stirring. Temporal and local relations underlie such cases as sea-going, picture-going, summer-flowering.

The type is now literary and sometimes lofty, whereas in the 20s it was very common in upper-class slang, e. g. sick-making ‘sickening’.

A similar type with the pronoun stem self- as the first component (self-adjusting, self-propelling) is used in cultivated and technical speech only.

The hard-working type structurally consists of an adjective stem and a participle stem. Other examples of the same type are: good-looking, sweet-smelling, far-reaching. It is not difficult to notice, however, that looking, smelling, reaching do not exist as separate adjectives. Neither is it quite clear whether the first element corresponds to an adjective or an adverb. They receive some definite character only in compounds.

There is a considerable group of compounds characterised by the type word man-made, i.e. consisting of Participle II with a noun stem for a determinant.

The semantic relations underlying this type are remarkable for their great variety: man-made ‘made by man’ (the relationship expressed is that of the agent and the action); home-made ‘made at home’ (the notion of place); safety-tested ‘tested for safety’ (purpose); moss-grown ‘covered with moss’ (instrumental notion); compare also the figurative compound heart-broken ‘having a broken heart’. Most of the compounds containing a Participle II stem for their second element have a passive meaning. The few exceptions are: well-read, well-spoken, well-behaved and the like.


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