The Poetics of Adjectives

Updated on February 1, 2018


This could become a very convoluted answer because I get to talk about what words mean to me in the context of Aristotle’s Poetics and Hayden White’s interpretation of the hermeneutic circle. I’ll keep it short by saying, from a philosophical point of view, communication and conceptualization would be extremely limited by the absence of adjectives and adverbs.

Descriptive Service Nouns

I suspect an alternative to adjectives would be a ginormous increase in the number of nouns in the English language to replace the descriptive service adjectives provide. For example, the word “sun” has an affiliation with the words “sunrise” and “sunset.” The compound words are equivalent to sun but denote specific times. Without adjectives, how would these nouns be further described to impress the conceptualization of “the hot sun”, or “a winter sun;” “the bright sunrise” or “a dark moody sunset?” Even the subtly between the articles constitutes a specific understanding.

The Poetics

It is human nature to communicate on an emotional, connective level, and words are symbolic expressions learned through experience, visualization, vocalization, and mimicry. From the philosophical perspective, this is the core of individualism and the foundation of communal culture. Without adjectives there would have to be another means of relaying these interconnected messages, such as an increase in ‘drilled down” nouns, very specific in meaning, or possibly auditory inflections that convey the intended message. Without adjectives or a suitable alternative, I suspect civilization would not be able to advance sociologically.

© 2018 Cheryl OMalley


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