Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 21:31:28 +0100
Subject: adjectives

> Are there adjectives in Malay/Indonesian?  [This is the question that
> should have gone to the general list :)]

As you said, that's not such an easy question. Actually, I find, it is not difficult to list some words labeled "adjectives", and some others labeled "verbs" and then prove that they are indeed grammatically distinct. What is difficult is to draw a dividing line in the larger class of words encompassing all words somehow qualifying either as adjectives, verbs, or both, such that we only have adjectives on one side of it, and verbs on the other.

As for first mentioned "partial solution" compare:

(1) the ter- form of an adjective is the superlative, that of
    a verb is the coincidental passive.

    terbesar, terkecil, terbaik, tercepat etc.
    terjadi, terduduk, termakan, termasuk, etc.

Unfortunately, not all words being either adjective or verb have ter- forms (without -kan).

(2) se- in combination with an adjective means "just as, equally",
    in combination with a verb it means "as soon as, the moment that"

    sebesar, sekecil, sebaik, secepat, etc
    sejadi, sedatang, semasuk, seturun, etc.

The latter test fortunately includes some verbs not having ter- forms.

One source of difficulties in distinguishing verbs from adjectives, I think, is that verbs seem to have a basic participle-like form, and verb-participles in many languages, as we now, are grammatically identical with adjectives.

Thus, although one has

    sebesar-besarnya rumah itu, masih tidak muat juga semua orang,
    sekecil-kecilnya ....,
    sebaik-baiknya ......,

or  lebih/paling/kurang besar/kecil/baik/cepat etc

which one might see as being characteristic for adjectives, compare

          *seduduk-duduknya...,  *semakan-makannya ....
          *lebih/paling/kurang duduk/makan etc
we have:
          paling jadi, lebih masuk, etc.

I don't know, whether these are "participles", or perhaps instances of conversion of verbforms into adjectives.

This is of course only a detail of the various relevant factors in this question, and I wouldn't be surprised if you had a wider overview of the literature than I do on the subject.

One thing is perhaps noteworthy in this question. In most Indoeuropean languages the adjective shares more grammatical categories with the noun than with the verb (hence Latin nomen adjectivus and nomen substantivus respectively, as contrasted to verbum). In Indonesian (like in most languages of mainland Southeast Asia and East Asia), the adjective shares more grammatical categories with the verb than with the noun.

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