November 9, 2020
In addition to inflecting adjectives for case, number, and gender, the early Germanic languages inflect adjectives as either strong or weak. Scholarly consensus is lacking regarding what triggers this fourth inflectional category, i.e. why an adjective surfaces as either strong or weak. While the traditional school of thought held that weak adjectives surface with definite determiners, some recent scholarship has argued that a semantic force such as definiteness or classification is responsible. To evaluate the two positions, I compared attributive adjectives in the Old High German translation of Tatian’s Diatessaron with the corresponding passages in Gothic and Old English. The conclusion supports the traditional school of thought that determiners trigger weak adjectives and refutes the idea that semantics is primarily responsible for whether an adjective surfaces as strong or weak.