[b-hebrew] b-hebrew Digest, Vol 45, Issue 20

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Sun Sep 17 21:56:54 EDT 2006

>modifying a noun attached to an object. In other words, the subject of
>a noun can and does modify the meaning of an adjective modifying that

Unfortunately, this is exactly how language works.  Adjectives do mean
different things depending on the nouns they modify.  (I'm joining
this thread late, so I don't know if the theoretical point supports
either or both positions, but it is nonetheless true.)

We can look at examples from English.

A "speedy (military) advance" has different qualities than a "speedy
car," notably in that one possesses actual speed while the other does
not, though it probably possesses potential for speed.  (It might
not.  It might be permanently broken.   Surprisingly to logicians,
such a broken car is still a speedy car, even though it can't move.)

A "bad idea" (an idea likely to produce unwanted results) has
different qualities than a "bad dessert" (which is not tasty) or a
"bad example" (which fails to prove a point).

A "spoiled child" has very different qualities than a "spoiled

Sometimes adjective and nouns for idiomatic groups.  "Gray market"
camera equipment has nothing to do with the color "gray."  "White
noise" has nothing to do with a "white lie."

Other examples abound.


Joel M. Hoffman, PhD


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