2

Is there a word for the word being described by an adjective? In other words, the "target" of an adjective. Or, by analogy, "Operators have operands, adjectives have ____."

5

The word modificand exists as a term of art for the thing you are looking for, and means according to the OED, “something that is to be modified.” But it is not particularly common:

A. 1832 Bentham Language Wks. 1843 VIII. 317/2 ― In this way, modificative clauses in any number may be made to precede, and by that means exclusively attach upon one and the same modificand.

The problem with just calling it a noun or noun phrase is that when you have something like

my earlier someone

(Which I would still call an NP, mind you), then the adjective earlier is targeting a pronoun, not a noun, and the possessive determiners my falls in the normal slot in an NP, despite it having a pronoun not a noun at its head.

  • That's funny. I initially wrote modificand as a made-up example, but decided to write an analogy instead. Thanks! – Andrew Cheong Dec 26 '12 at 18:55
  • 1
    Regard all pronouns as nouns, as some do, and any problem of demarcation disappears. – Barrie England Dec 26 '12 at 18:57
  • Analogies are more normal than the use of uncommon words. By definition, practically. – John Lawler Dec 26 '12 at 19:33
1

The word is noun or noun phrase.

  • It is a noun or noun phrase, but that doesn't describe its relationship to the adjective. – Jon Hanna Dec 26 '12 at 21:33

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.