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GHOST ADJECTIVES IN DICTIONARIES JAMES E. IANNUCCI Derivatives of place names in -fijan, like Roman, Armenian, and Russian, are generally both nouns and adjectives. As nouns they have the sense 'native or inhabitant of the place' (and in some cases also 'language of the place'), as in a young Parisian, a few Italians, two Venetians, and some Hungarians. As adjectives they have the sense 'of or pertaining to the place', as in Parisian accent, Italian music, Venetian glass, and Hungarian Government. As a class, derivatives in -fi)an of American place names constitute a major exception in that they lack the adjective sense and are used exclusively as nouns. A young Californian, two Floridians, a few Pennsylvanians, and some Philadelphians are all grammatical, but *Californian wines, *Floridian schools, *Pennsylvanian law, *Philadelphian police force are all ungrammatical. Almost without exception, English-language dictionaries treat derivatives in -fijan of American place names both as nouns and as adjectives, thus creating large numbers of ghost adjectives. In some dictionaries, especially the smaller ones, these derivatives are treated as undefined run-ons following the place name as main entry. The treatment of Californian in The Random House College Dictionary is typical: California ... « 1. a state in the W United States on the Pacific coast . . . Californian, adj., n. Other dictionaries, especially the larger ones, give main entry status to these derivatives. For example, Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language treats Alabamian as a main entry, under which it labels and defines both the noun and the ghost adjective: 164 James E. Iannucci165 Alabamian . . . adj. of Alabama, ?. a native of Alabama. Webster's Third gives two numbered main entries to these derivatives, one for the noun and one for the presumed adjective, with label and definition in each entry. The treatment of Virginian is an example: 'virginian ... ? -S cap ... a native or resident of the state of Virginia Virginian . . . , adj, usu cap ... of, relating to, or characteristic of Virginia The only dictionary I have seen that does not record these ghost adjectives is The Scribner-Bantam English Dictionary. This dictionary treats derivatives in -fijan of American place names as run-ons following the place name as main entry and labels the run-on only as a noun. The treatment of Oklahoman is an example: Oklahoma . . . ? state in the S central U.S. . . . Oklahoman ? With very few exceptions, American place names function as modifiers in the form of attributive nouns in a Noun + Noun construction with level stress (like silk hat, gold medal, and stone wall) as in Boston schools, Washington Post, and Virginia history. This general rule applies to all American place names, including those that have derivatives in suffixes other than -fijan, such as New Yorker and Wisconsinite; viz. New York skyline and Wisconsin cheese. That the attributive noun construction rather than the derivative adjective construction is the regular one for American place names is profusely documented in the dictionaries themselves, particularly the larger ones. This documentation is found in the numerous multiword entries with American place names as the first element. Webster's Third, for example, records nineteen multiword entries under Boston, from Boston bag through Boston cream pie and Boston 166Ghost Adjectives in Dictionaries terrier to Boston two-step. There are no multiword entries with Bostonian as the first element. The same dictionary records almost a hundred multiword entries under California, from California barberry through California clapper rail and California pepper tree to California yew. There are no multiword entries with Californian as the first element. The distinction in modifier types for American versus foreign place names is iUustrated in the place name Georgia, which has two geographical senses. Georgian history is understood as the history of Georgia in Caucasia, while Georgia history is understood as the history of the state of Georgia in the United States. Thus, dictionaries should treat Georgian as an adjective only for the first sense. I find only three American place names whose derivatives in -fijan are adjectives: America, Alaska, and Hawaii. The modifier type for America is always the derivative adjective rather than the attributive noun, as in American citizen, American history, and American cars. Webster's Third records more than a hundred multiword...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 164-168
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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