Numerous adjectives can be combined with the. Examples include the poor, the limitless, the miraculous, etc. Such constructions are semantically equivalent to nouns. According to Wikipedia:

A nominalized adjective is an adjective that has undergone nominalization, and is thus used as a noun. In the rich and the poor, the adjectives rich and poor function as nouns denoting people who are rich and poor respectively.

However, it appears that the definite article the can precede adjective phrases as well as single adjectives:

It was a mental hospital for the criminally insane.

It has over the recent years become a playground of the rich and famous.

As always, travel bans do not apply to the rich, famous, or powerful.

If I mistake not, all of these examples possess constructions structurally similar to the poor or the limitless. Therefore, the definite article is combined with the whole adjective phrase (criminally insane/rich and famous/rich, famous, or powerful) rather than a single adjective. Consequently, I think they are nominalizations of adjective phrases rather than nominalizations of single adjectives.

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    "The rich" (i.e. rich people and "the poor" (i.e. poor people) are best analysed as fused-head noun phrases. "Rich" and "poor" retain their word class (POS) as adjectives while combining the function of head with that of modifier.
    – BillJ
    Apr 10 at 8:53
  • They're obviously very closely related. It's easy to get sidetracked into arguing over mere terminology. When new analyses are put forward, it is essential that older terms be defined stipulatively, or that newer terms be defined and explained (as with CGEL's approach put forward by BillJ). Apr 10 at 11:34
  • Yeah, English arthrous adjectives are limited to plural generic use: the poor can only mean (all) poor people. In Spanish or German, or many other languages, however, equivalents of the poor can mean the poor (man/woman), or, in the plural, the poor men/women. Similarly for other articles and demonstratives: aquello flaco, in Mexican Spanish, means 'that skinny guy', dos chicos means 'two children('s tickets)', etc. For some reason, we only do plurals and generic universals using definite articles in the singular. Of course, English adjectives are tough to pluralize. Apr 10 at 19:16
  • What's your question? There's nothing surprising about being able to use adjectival phrases in a similar way as simple adjectives.
    – Barmar
    Apr 11 at 21:32


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