query: action nominals and ontological categories
gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Sun May 3 13:35:39 UTC 2009
I am interested in the semantic analysis of action nominalizations (eg.
"the destruction of the city"); specifically, the ontological category
(or "logical type") to which the meanings of action nominalizations belong.
Most commonly (and in my view, at least, correctly), action
nominalizations are said to denote activities or events. However, an
alternative way of describing the semantics of action nominalizations is
that they refer to some kind of "abstract thing or object".
Occasionally, the action nominalization is characterized as "naming" the
activity, which also seems to me to be tantamount to saying that its
meaning is an abstract thing or object, ie. a name. My own view
regarding such claims is that they reflect an unwarranted imposition of
morphosyntactic features onto semantic categories: "It's a noun, so it
must refer to a thing/object".
The main reason for this message is bibliographical: I would greatly
appreciate pointers to any specific references that you might be
familiar with in which it is claimed that the meanings of action
nominalizations are, in some sense, more thing- or object-like than
their corresponding clauses. My interest is both in the "general"
literature, and in descriptions of individual languages in which such
issues are discussed.
I am currently writing a paper about what I am calling the "Thinginess
Illusion": the tendency of many linguists to analyze certain
constructions in their languages as denoting things or objects because
their translations into English involve nouns or NPs. I would of course
be interested in any thoughts or opinions you might have on this matter
(perhaps more appropriately addressed just to me, not to the entire list).
Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
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