Vol. 52 No. 1 (2014)

The birth of a grammatical category: the case of the adjective class

Luca Alfieri
University Rome "La Sapienza"

Published 2014-06-30


  • history of linguistics,
  • parts of speech,
  • adjective,
  • birth of grammatical categories,


One of the main differences between Greek-Latin parts of speech theory and the parts of speech theory of so-called traditional linguistics lies in the presence of the adjective as an independent word class, but hitherto the literature on the topic has not discussed this question specifically. The paper therefore analyzes the definitions of the noun, the verb and the epithet-adjective class from Dionysius Thrax to the Port Royal grammar with the aim of demonstrating that the birth of the adjective as an independent word class, as well as the stabilization of the labels nomen substantivum and nomen adjectivum with reference to the common noun and the adjective, depend on the reinterpretation of Aristotle’s metaphysics in the light of Neo-platonic ontology in the Middle Ages.