Open ended summary on nominalising morphology

Guy Deutscher gd116 at HERMES.CAM.AC.UK
Mon Jun 23 10:58:11 UTC 2003

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Dear Histling,

A few days ago, I raised the question of the sources for nominalising
morphology on verbs. I had expected - rather naively in retrospect - to
find lexical sources that grammaticalise *directly* on verbs. But it seems
that nominalising morphology on verbs does NOT arise in this way. Instead,
at least in all the examples I have found out about, nominalising affixes
seem to reach verbs by *extension* of already grammaticalised affixes from

Here are a few examples. According to Barry Blake, in Australian
languages, case markers can be added to verbs, and at a later stage, these
case markers are reanalysed as nominalising morphology. (He has an article
on this 'Nominal Marking on verbs, some Australian cases', in Word 50
(1989):299-317.) Larry Trask shows that suffixes forming abstract nouns
from other nouns must have been extended to verbs in Basque. (His article
on this is 'On the history of the non-finite verb forms in Basque. In José
Ignacio Hualde, Joseba A. Lakarra and R. L. Trask (eds) (1995), Towards a
History of the Basque Language, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 207-234.).
Nominal classifiers, it seems, are also often extended to verbs, where
they assume a nominalising function. (Examples can be found in A.
Aikhenvald: 'Classifiers', OUP 2000, p. 332). Vit Bubenik points out that
in Semitic, some verbal nouns are clearly modelled on adjectival and
nominal patterns. That must mean that adjectival/nominal patterns were
extended to verbal roots.

It seems, therefore, that in all these cases, affixes which had
grammaticalised *somewhere else* are later extended to verbs. If this is
universally valid, then it is an interesting point in itself. But it then
raises a deeper question. How does the extension of such affixes from
nouns to verbs - surely, a mighty conceptual leap - actually take place? I
had always thought that the 'bridging context' between nouns and verbs was
precisely verbal nouns. But we cannot use verbal nouns to explain the
emergence of verbal nouns in the first place...

Thanks to all who answered,

Guy Deutscher.

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