more verbing

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Jul 3 19:23:58 UTC 1999


Not to be too picky, but wouldn't the "verb" in "I verb whenever I can" be
intransitive (as in "I sleep whenever I can," or, better, "I speak whenever
I can")?

Whether a form has an "-ing" or not is surely also not important to its
transitivity. I don't have trouble with the "real" transitive here ("We
decided to verb a bunch of adjectives yesterday" or, to show the
irrelevance of the "-ing" to this matter, "We were verbing a bunch of
adjectives yesterday when the Language Police showed up and nabbed us."

Of course, up until your message, the "verbing" being used is the verbal
noun (or "gerund" to you old-timers), but even these "preserve" their
transitivity (or intransitivity) - "Sleeping in the afternoon is good for
us old codgers" (intransitive gerund phrase) "Kicking verbers who are out
to destroy the language is fun" (transitive gerund phrase).

dInIs (who hasn't said "gerund" for a heluva long time)

PS: One might, by the way, treat "verb" as an "essentially" transitive form
in  that it has a "cognate object" (which, therefore, need not be overtly
expressed). That is, one "verbs verbs" (causes items to become verbs),
although this is slightly more complex than typical cognate verbs, although
some objects which appear with semantically "depleted" verbs (e.g., "I made
a fuss" versus "I fussed") are similar.

>If one engages in verbing, would one be verbalizing?
>And is verbing transitive? Or is the transitive of
>verbing verb, as in "I verb whenever I can"?

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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