This paper examined the semantic and syntactic characteristics of distinguishing words, adjectives, and state words, which are the categories of attributes represented in the Chinese language, and set the boundary of the word class according to the typicality of these attribute categories.
In terms of gradability, which is a typical semantic characteristic of the attribute categories, we found that distinguishing words were non-gradable unlike the other two categories. In terms of syntax function, distinguishing words only act as modifiers, unlike adjectives and state words. These features allowed us to see that distinguishing words are far from typical Chinese adjectives. State words are closer to adjectives than distinguishing words, but differ from adjectives in terms of its realization in gradability, time stability, meaning type, its appearance with Bu and Hen, and the characteristics related to complements. This showed that the typical Chinese attribute category appeared in order of adjectives, state words, and distinguishing words. We propose that distinguishing words which are the furthest from the quintessence of adjectives should be treated as independent parts of speech. We also suggest that state words should be treated as part of speech differentiated from adjectives based on semantic and syntactic characteristics.