This paper deals with functionally defined modifier categories of the noun phrase in some Germanic languages, in particular Danish, Dutch and German. It is argued that functional categories, unlike semantic or form-based categories, are the only categories that can be applied within and across languages. Formal categories are too narrow (they do not cover all the structural variants attested across languages) and semantic categories are too wide (they tend to include too many structural variants). The paper is particularly concerned with the relation between form and function of adnominal modifiers. Whereas members of certain formal categories (e.g. adnominal prepositional phrase or PP) can be used in several functions (e.g. as classifying, qualifying or localizing/anchoring modifiers of the noun), other adnominal modifiers always have the same function. The current investigation first briefly discusses an example of a jack-of-all-trades in Dutch (adnominal PPs with van ‘of’; see Rijkhoff 2009b for a more detailed treatment), then focuses on a one-trick-pony in Danish, the adjective stakkels ‘poor’ (as in Stakkels pige! ‘Poor girl!’), and compares it with its translational counterpart in German: attitudinal arm (e.g. Der arme Junge! ‘The poor boy!’).
Deutsche Sprache, 2010, Vol 2010, Issue 2, p. 97-124