Substantive (continental)

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The term substantive has sometimes been used in the sense of noun, i.e. the word class whose members prototypically denote things and people. In several European languages other than English, this usage is normal.


In a terminological tradition going back to antiquity, Latin nomen refers to (what we would now generally think of as) a super-class consisting of nouns and adjectives. Nomina were defined by their inflectional properties, which are very similar in Latin. In this tradition, two subclasses of nomina are distinguished: nomina substantiva ('substantive nouns') and nomina adjectiva ('adjective nouns').


Confusingly, substantive is sometimes also used to refer to

  • "English scholars generally use the word noun for what is here called substantive; but the terminology here adopted gives us on the one hand the adjective nominal for both classes, and on the other hand the verb substantivize when we speak, for instance, of a substantivized adjective." (Jespersen 1924:72)



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