today's verbing

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Nov 20 19:31:44 UTC 2008

On Nov 20, 2008, at 6:41 AM, i wrote:

> ... of the adjective "extinct"...

a follow-up, in response to the inevitable complaints (not on ADS-L,
but elsewhere) about the innovation of such "unnessary" items:

there's one answer for the active-voice examples ("enough to extinct
the species") and another for the passive-voice examples ("extincted

the motivation for the first (like the motivation for a great many
verbings) is, to start with, brevity; "to extinct" is more compact
than "to make ... extinct", "to drive/force/push ... to extinction",
etc.  usually in such cases there is also a subtle meaning difference
that follows from having a single verb vs. a periphrastic
construction: a single verb tends to express more direct connection
between verb and object (this is a matter of iconicity, seen in many

for the second set of examples, the choice is between constructions of
similar length (in number of words).  people ask: why use "extincted"
when "extinct" is available?  here, the difference is between a verbal
formulation like "extincted" (admittedly, passive, but still verbal)
and an adjectival formulation like "extinct".  the verbal formulation
alludes to an event (and thereby suggests a cause for the event,
likely a human cause), the adjectival formulation a state (and
therefore lacks these suggestions).  so "extinct" just says that X
used to be around but isn't now, while "extincted" says this and more:
it suggests that human beings caused the extinction.


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