Definite Adjectives in Slavic and Other Indo-European Langua

LilianaB

Banned
Lithuanian
I am interested in the phenomenon of definite adjectives in Slavic and other Indo-European languages. Are they present in all Slavic languages? Do they appear in other Indo-European language. I know they do appear in some other Indo-European languages, but I am not sure whether in all of them. Also, when did they start to appear in other Indo-European languages?
 
  • bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    The definite adjectives were inherited from Common Slavic and are present in all Slavic languages. However in the vast majority of them the definite adjectives lost the ability to express definiteness. For example, in Czech or Russian the difference between the definite and indefinite adjectives is mostly in syntax (or even merely stylistic).
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Could you give me some examples Bibax, even in Czech or Russian, so I see exactly what you mean. How did it come about that they lost their definiteness?
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Thank you. I am sorry to bother you, but would you tell me exactly where this thread is. I cannot find it. Is it in the Czech forum? Which page or what date? I cannot find it.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Thank you, but I am still confused. So in the Old Slavonic, there were definite and indefinite adjectives, but what about nouns, though? Were there also definite and indefinite nouns, or would the adjectives indicate their definiteness or indefiniteness? What happened to those forms in modern Slavic languages? Can anyone give me any examples of indefinite and indefinite adjectives in Modern Slavic languages. I know about some in Scandinavian languages, but I cannot somehow picture them in Modern Slavic languages, or even older Slavic languages.
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    Were there also definite and indefinite nouns, or would the adjectives indicate their definiteness or indefiniteness?
    The definiteness of the nouns was indicated by the adjectives (strictly speaking by the anaphoric pronoun jь, ja, je).
    What happened to those forms in modern Slavic languages?
    They lost their function to express definiteness in most Slavic languages (esp in West and East Slavic).

    Czech uses the indefinite adjectives only in predicate (the past participles forming the past tense are always in the indefinite form), never as an attribute. So the indefinite adjectives exist only in nominative and accusative (if they are not substantivized, of course, e.g. temno = dark(ness), světlo = light, zlo = evil, etc. are fully declinable). The definite adjectives are more versatile. There is certain difference in meaning between the definite and indefinite form of the passive participles, but not in definiteness.
    Can anyone give me any examples of indefinite and indefinite adjectives in Modern Slavic languages.
    Czech indefinite adjectives (nom. sing.):

    masc. mlád = young
    fem. mláda 
    neuter mládo

    Czech definite adjectives (nom. sing.):

    masc. mladý < mladъjь < mladъ
    fem. mladá < mladaja < mlada ja
    neuter mladé < mladoje < mlado je

    (jь, ja, je was an anaphoric pronoun, ъ = hard yer, ь = soft yer)

    In Czech we use:

    a) indefinite or definite adjectives in predicate:

    Petr je mlád. :tick: or Petr je mladý. :tick: = Peter is young.
    (no difference in definiteness, only stylistic)

    b) definite adjective as an attribute:

    (nějaký/ten) mladý muž :tick: = (a/the) young man
    (the definite adjective mladý does not express definiteness anymore in Czech)

    mlád muž :cross: is not possible in Czech, if mlád is not in predicate;

    (however in mlád muž, který ... :tick: = young is the man, who ... the indefinite adjective mlád is in predicate);

    As you can see the function of the definite and indefinite forms of adjectives is only syntactic and stylistic. No relation with the definiteness in Modern Czech.
     
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    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Did the Old Slavonic have definite and indefinite adjectives? Do you know if the definite adjectives ever existed in all Slavic languages, but they simply disappeared, or they never existed in some of them? Thank you very much.
     

    bibax

    Senior Member
    Czech (Prague)
    Adjectives in Russian:

    indefinite: нов, нова, ново (from Proto-Slavic *novъ) = new;
    definite: новый, новая, новое

    The Russian definite adjectives are less contracted than the Czech ones. In some cases you can clearly identify the anaphoric pronoun. For example я and е (ja, je) in

    новая книга = нова я книга = the new book;
    новое окно = ново е окно = the new window;

    However the Russians (as well as Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, etc.) do not feel it this way as the anaphoric pronoun jь/ja/je does not exist in the Modern Slavic languages.
     

    Arath

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    In Bulgarian the only remnant of the old definite adjectives is the long masculine form of the adjective. It is only used to form the masculine definite form and with nouns in the vocative

    млади + ъ(т) = младия(т) (the young one)
    vocative forms: уважаеми господине, мили боже, стари приятелю

    indefinite adjectives - млад, млада, младо, млади
    definite adjectives - младия(т), младата, младото, младите
     

    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    There are several problems with the interpretation of the opposition of simple and compound adjectives in the ancient Slavic languages as a way to express indefiniteness/definiteness of the noun.

    First of all, I can think of no reason (and no typological example) why the definite article would merge with the adjective and disappear as a separate element. Taking into consideration that in the early Slavic texts the structure of compound adjectives was pretty transparent, they seem to have grammaticalized not long before, and this и/ꙗ/ѥ should have preserved (even occasionally) as a noun identifier as well, which is not so in reality.

    Second, the meaning of the separate и/ꙗ/ѥ in the old Slavic texts, at least in the Nominative, is "which", thus the meaning of «новоѥ» being "new-which" rather than "new-the".

    Third, in Lithuanian, the same opposition of simple/compound adjectives is used (as the grammars tell) to put the emphasis on the adjective rather than the noun: «žalias obuolys» means both "a green apple" and "the green apple", while «žaliasis obuolys» means "a/the apple which is green, which differs by its green color".

    Thus, in the opposition «зелено ꙗблъко» vs. «зеленоѥ ꙗблъко» the second variant puts an emphasis on the uniqueness of the meaning expressed by the adjective (the green apple among apples of other color). With time, the meaning shifted: in some languages (South Slavic ones), towards expressing indefiniteness/definiteness of the noun; in others, the meaning became identical, with differences in syntactical usage or in stylistic flavor.

    By the way, you can find this across the literature and even in manuals of the Old Slavonic. Simply, since this distinction seems to be absent in any modern European language but Lithuanian, people by default don't pay attention to the subtleties and classify the old definiteness of adjectives as just a special case of definiteness of nouns.
     
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    Explorer41

    Senior Member
    Simply, since this distinction seems to be absent in any modern European language but Lithuanian, people by default don't pay attention to the subtleties and classify the old definiteness of adjectives as just a special case of definiteness of nouns.
    By the way, when I first saw the term "definiteness of adjectives" (here in WRF -- in your post in the Russian forum), it made me think of defining an adjective word by selecting an abstract "thing" expressed by it, from the set of other "things" named the same (in this case the expressed thing can be named "something green in a way", and its general property is called "greenness"). So I first understood it as a means to choose a "greenness" among other "greennesses", that is, "a green-the apple" would be an apple which is green in the way already known to us, in the specific way.

    When I understood what you were talking about (the same here in your post above), I understood that definiteness in question belongs to a noun indeed, not to an adjective, and is a particular way to define a noun, that is to choose a thing expressed by it among other things which could be named the same. When we use a definite article like "the", we define a noun by choosing a thing already known to us; when we use a "which" particle like the one discussed, we define a noun by choosing a thing which bears specific properties.

    So it would be more logical, if the category in question were named "definiteness of nouns by use of adjectives", not "definiteness of adjectives", which is another thing.
     
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    ahvalj

    Senior Member
    By the way, when I first saw the term "definiteness of adjectives" (here in WRF -- in your post in the Russian forum), it made me think of definiteness an adjective by choosing a thing expressed by it (in this case the expressed thing is named "something green in a way", "greenness"). So I first understood it as a means to choose a "greenness" among other "greennesses", that is, "a green-the apple" would be an apple which is green in the way already known to us, in the specific way.

    When I understood what you were talking about (the same here in your post above), I understood that definiteness in question belongs to a noun indeed, not to an adjective, and is a particular way to define a noun, that is to choose a thing expressed by it among other things which could be named the same. When we use a definite article like "the", we define a noun by choosing a thing already known to us; when we use a "which" particle like the one discussed, we define a noun by choosing a thing which bears specific properties.

    So it would be more logical, if the category in question were named "definiteness of nouns by use of adjectives", not "definiteness of adjectives", which is another thing.
    I think, the best solution would be, indeed, to rename the category in a way that would not interfere with the definiteness of nouns as we know it across so many languages. Plus, since the same distinction existed in the ancient Germanic languages (the weak adjectives had the same original meaning), and some tendencies towards this can be found in several other ancient IE languages (ancient Iranian which-particle, n-nouns derived from adjectives in many ancient IE languages), it was not just some specific Balto-Slavic category, but something that, like the verbal aspects, was dissolved in the IE way of thinking. In Russian I would suggest to distinguish between «категория определённости» and something like «категория выделительности», with «выделительные прилагательные» opposed to «простые прилагательные».
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    There are some relics of these forms in modern Polish too. We don’t make a difference anymore that used to be present when both forms were employed with equal frequency.
    Some examples include:
    pełen – pełny
    matczyn – matczyny
    zdrów – zdrowy
    wesół – wesoły

    There are also some very rare short adjectives that have only the noun form: kontent, rad, wart (however, people use ‘warty’, but it isn’t normatively correct). They are only used in the nominative today.
     
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