Adjectives and their Antics

Thought I’d talk a little of the frolicking of adjectives today!

This post relies on you knowing what I mean by “quality-like” roots,”action-like” root words and “thing-like” root words. Luckily, you can find out in my previous post.

So today’s post answers the question: what happens when you make a root word into an adjective using the “a” suffix? If you want more examples than I give, go to the the PMEG page on the topic, the page which is the inspiration and main reference of this post.

Starting with the simple case: quality-like roots. These roots already show description or quality, so adding the “a” usually just expresses that quality:

  • blua = blue (from blu- exressing quality of blue)
  • bona = good (from bon- expresses quality of good)
  • bela = beautiful

There are some infrequent exceptions. They normally depend on context, and most could understand them without having had to learn the exceptions beforehand:

  • stulta demando = a stupid question. The question itself cannot be acting stupid (as one may interpret something which is stulta), it is rather that the question was made through stupidity.
  • laŭta ĉambro = a loud room. The room isn’t being loud (the usual interpretation of laŭta), instead, the room is full of loudness (the things inside it are being loud).

What happens when the root is a thing-like root?

It means something related to the root, the thing. Somehow a description that is typical of the thing. This will be different depending on the context.

An example used on the PMEG page is “reĝa” from the thing-like root “reĝ-” (Therefore it’s inherently an ‘o’ word “reĝo” = “king”).

  • reĝa konduto = kingly/regal conduct. Behaviour in the manner of a king, with the qualities of a king.
  • reĝa persono = kingly person, royal person, person characterised by royality/kingliness.
  • reĝa palaco = royal/kingly palace, a king’s palace.

And when the roots are action-like? 

They show a meaning related to (characterised by) the action in question. They are similar to the present/past active participles in Esperanto (future posts!). Present active shows that an action is happening, and past active shows that it happened.

From help- (and its action “helpi” = “to help”):

  • helpa hundo = a helpful dog, a dog that’s helping.
  • helpa diro = a helpful statement, a statement that helped.

From nutr- (and its action “nutri” = “to nourish”):

  • nutra problemo = nutritional problem
  • nutra manĝaĵo = nourishing/nutritional food, food which nourishes.

Adjectives made from action-like roots can have an additional possible meaning. For example, given the examples above and the word “korekt-” (action-like root, “korekti” = “to correct”), extending the examples above:

  • korekta X

“X” should be something that corrects, or is characterised by correcting.

But it is often far more useful as something much closer to passive participles (future posts!), these are things which have received an action instead of dishing it out (active).

So here, X could also be something that is correct, or corrected!

Same goes for others to:

  • kompliki = to complicate
  • komplika X: X can be complicating or complicated!
  • veki = to wake
  • veka X: X can be waking or awoken.

This shows that the adjectival “a” can be a very general description, sometimes relying on context to disambiguate. If you need a specific meaning, and the context doesn’t make this clear, then you must turn to the more precise participles!