A corpus-based study of adjectival <i>vs</i> nominal modification in medical English

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Relational adjectives are a typical component of specialized language, as their use as a substitute for prepositional phrases follows the principle of economy, while being a stylistic feature of specialized discourse: French physicians will use an expression like <i>cancer mammaire</i> where the layman uses <i>cancer du sein</i>. The choice between a modifying noun or adjective is difficult to make for non-natives who write in English or translate into English from their native language. After a review of morphological, syntactic and semantic features of relational adjectives, this study analyzes the use of nouns or relational adjectives as modifiers based on examples drawn from the Corpus of Contemporary American English and focuses on variation in the use of the pair <i>heart</i>/<i>cardiac</i> as noun modifiers. Keywords: adjectival modifiers; attributive structures; coordination; corpus; Internet; medical language; relational adjective


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