Word-formation of the English language. Conversion

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Iineianeee Iaaeaaiae/aneee Eieeaaeae ? 12

Eo?niaay ?aaioa

Oaia: ”Niiniau neiaiia?aciaaiey

aiaeeeneiai ycuea.

Eiiaa?ney ”

Nooaeaioee III eo?na

Ioaeaeaiey ia/aeueiuo eeannia

n aiaeeeneei ycueii

Iinoieeiaie A.N.

Iao/iue ?oeiaiaeeoaeue:

Eaeiiiaa A.A.

Iineaa 1999 a.


I. Introduction………………………………..………..

II. Theoretical part:

1) Affixal word formation………………………


III. Practical part………………………………………..

IV. Conclusion……………..……………………………

V. Bibliography……….…………………………………

VI. Appendix I…………………………………

VI. Appendix II……….………………………..


The theme of my course-paper is ‘Word-formation. Conversion’. At the
first part of the work I’ve wrote some lines about the term ‘word’ as
the smallest independent unit of speech. Next, there is the definition
of the field of word-formation. At the following part you can find some
information about the affix word-formation of nouns, verbs and
adjectives. The next part named ‘conversion’. Where the terms
‘conversion’ and ‘zero-derivation’ are examined which are the synonyms
for some linguists. It is necessary to mention here about productivity
and ‘conversion as syntactic process’. Under the headline
‘zero-derivation’ it is possible to read about derivation connection
between verbs and nouns (substantives), zero-derivation with loan-words.
The next item is zero-derivation as specifically English process.

In the practical part I’ve analysed two courses: Russian by
Vereshchagina, Pritykina and foreign one ‘Magic time’.

The term “word”.

The term “word” should be defined. It is taken to denote the smallest
independent, indivisible unit of speech, susceptible of being used in
isolation. A word may have a heavy stress, thought, some never take
one. To preceding the ‘infinitive’ never has a heavy stress, but it is a
word as it can be separated from the verbal stem by an adverb (as in to
carefully study). A composite may have two heavy stresses so long as it
is not analyzable as a syntactic group. There is a marked tendency in
English to give prefixes full stress thought they do not exist as
independent words. Indivisible composites such as arch-enemy,
crypto-communist, unlucky, therefore are morphological units whereas
combination, like stone, wall, gold watch, are syntactic groups. As
for the criterion of indivisibility, it is said that the article a is a
word as IT can interpolate words between article and substantive (a nice
man, a very nice man, an exceptionally gifted man). But a as in aglitter
can’t be separated from the verb stem with which it forms a group and
therefore is not a free morpheme (word). With regard to the criterion of
usability, it must not be assumed that all words can be used by
themselves, in isolation. It is in the very nature of determiners like
the article the to be used in conjunction with the word they

Definition of the field of word-formation.

Word-formation is that branch of the science of language which studies
the patterns on which a language forms new lexical units, i.e. words.
Word-formation can only treat of composites which are analyzable both
formally and semantically. The study of the simple words, therefore,
insofar as it is an , unmotivated sign, has no please in it. It is a
lexical matter. A composite rests on a relationship between morphemes
though which it is motivated. By this token, do-er, un-do, rain-bow are
relevant to word-formation, but do, rain, bow are not.


Conversion is the change in form class of a form without any
corresponding change of form. Thus the change whereby the form napalm,
which has been used exclusively as a noun, came to be as a verb (They
decided to napalm the village) is a case of conversion.

The exact status of conversion within word-formation is unclear. For
some scholars (Marchand/8/) conversion is a brunch of derivation, for
others (Koziol /Marchand/8/) it is a separate type of word-formation, on
a level with derivation and compounding. Whether this distinction has
any real effect on the structure of a theory of word-formation is not

Conversion is frequently called zero-derivation, a term which many
scholars prefer (Adams, Jespersen, Marchand/1,5,8/). Most writers who
use both terms appear to use them as synonyms (although Marchand/8/ is
an exception). However, as Lyons/7/ points out, the theoretical
implications of the two are rather different. Cruber/2/, for example,
argues that to treat ordinary derivation and zero-derivation differently
in the grammar is to lose a generalization, since both involve changes
of form class, but claims that they can only by treated the same way, if
a zero-affix is permitted. Otherwise, he says, derivation can be treated
as a rule-governed process, but zero-derivation can’t be; that is, the
relation between some napalm and to napalm and other similar pairs must
be, considered to be totally coincidental Lyon’s/7/ own view (as noted
by Matthews) is that in cases of so-called zero-derivation, an identity
operation can be said to have been carried out between the base and the
new lexeme. This means that there is a process linking the two lexeme,
napalm, lent that this process defines the form of the derived lexeme as
being identical to the form of the base. This is also more or less the
line taken by Matthews himself, when he speaks of a ‘formation involving
zero operation’. The theoretical dubiousness of speaking of zero affixes
in language leads Bauer to prefer the theoretical position enshrined in
the term ‘conversion’, especially when this can be given a dynamic
interpretation, and that term will be used exclusively from now (on in
this book). It should, however, be noted that this is an area of dispute
in the literature. For a comprehensive review of the literature on
conversion and a discussion of the implication of talking in terms of
zero-derivation, the reader is referred to Pannanen.


Conversion is an extremely productive way of producing new words in
English. There do not appear to be morphological restrictions on the
forms can undergo conversion, so that compounds, derivatives, acronyms,
blends, clipped forms and simplex words are all acceptable inputs to the
conversion process. Similarly, all ford classes seem to be able to
undergo conversion, and conversion seems to de able to produce words of
almost any form class, particularly the open form classes (noun, verb,
adjective, adverb ). This seems to suggest that rather than English
having specific rules of conversion (rules allowing the conversion of
common nouns into verbs or adjectives into nouns, for example)
conversion is a totally free process and any lexeme can undergo
conversion into any of the open form classes as the need arises.
Certainly, if there are constraints on conversion they have yet to de
demonstrated. The only partial restriction that it is award of is that
discussed by Marchand. Marchand/8/ points out that derived nouns rarely
undergo conversion, and particularly not to verb. This is usually
because of blocking. To take one of Marchand’s examples, a derived noun
like arrival will not de converted into a verb if that verb means
exactly the same as arrive, from which arrival is derived. In cases
where blocking is not a relevant concern, even derived nouns can undergo
conversion, as is shown by the series a sign > to sign > a signal > to
signal and to commit > commission > to commission.

The commonness of conversion can possibly be seen as breaking down the
distinction between form classes in English and leading to a system
where there are closed sets such as pronouns and a single open set of
lexical that can be used as required. Such a move could be seem as part
of the trend away from synthetic structure and towards analytic
structure which has been fairly typical of the history of English over
the last millennium. This suggestion is, of course highly speculative.

Conversion as a syntactic process.

Conversion is the use of a form which is regarded as being basically of
one form class as though it were a member of a different form class,
without any concomitant change of form. There are, however, a number of
instances where changes of this type occur with such ease and so
regularly that many scholars prefer to see that as matters of syntactic
usage rather that as word-formation.

The most obvious cases are those where the change of form class is not a
major one (such as from noun to verb or adjective to noun ) but a change
from one type of noun to another or one type of verb to another. The
clearest example of this type is the use of countable nouns as
uncountable and vise versa. In some tea, tea is used as an uncountable
noun, while in two teas it is used as a countable noun; goat is normally
a countable noun, but if a goat is being eaten it is quite in order to
ask for a slice of goat, where goat is used as an uncountable noun. In
general, given a suitable context, it is possible to use almost any noun
on either way: for example, when the Goons took part in a
mountain-eating competition, it would have been perfectly possible to
ask whether anyone wanted some more mountain, using mountain as an
uncountable noun. Similarly, proper nouns can be easily used as common
nouns as in Which John do you mean? or The Athens in Ohio is not as
interesting as the Athens in Greece. Intransitive verbs are frequently
used as transitive verbs, as in He is running a horse in the Derby or
The army flew the civilians to safety. Finally, non-gradable adjectives
are frequently used as gradable adjectives, as in She looks very French
or New Zealander are said to be more English. Such processes are very
near the inflectional end of word-formation.

Another case where it is not completely clear whether or not conversion
is involved is with conversion to adjectives. This depends crucially on
how an adjective is defined. For some scholars it appears to be the case
that the use of an element in attributive position is sufficient for
that element to be classified as an adjective. By this criterion bow
window, head teacher, model airplane and stone well all contain
adjectives formed by conversion formed by conversion. However, it has
already been argued that such collocations should be seen as compounds,
which makes it unnecessary to view such elements as instances of
conversion. Quirk suggest that when such elements can occur not only in
attributive position but also in predicative position, it is possible to
speak of conversion to an adjective. On the basis of:

*This window is bow

This teacher is head

*This airplane is model

This wall is stone

they would thus conclude that, in the examples above, head and stone but
not bow and model have become adjectives by conversion. But this
introduces a distinction between two kinds of modifier which is not
relevant elsewhere in the grammar and which masks a great deal of
similarity. It is therefore not clear that this suggestion is of any
great value. This is not meant to imply that conversion to an adjective
is impossible, merely that it is least controversial that conversion is
involved where the form is not used attributively. Where the form is
used attributively, criteria for concluding that conversion has taken
place must be spelled out with great care. Apart from those mentioned,
possible criteria are the ability to be used in the comparative and
superlative, the ability to be modified by and very, the ability to be
used as a base for adverbial -ly or nominal -ness suffixation. It must
be pointed out that very few adjectives fit all these criteria.

Marginal cases of conversion.

There are cases of change in form class from a verb to a noun and from a
verb to an adjective which do not involve any affixation, but which are
not clearly instances of conversion. These are cases there is a shift of
stress, frequently with a concomitant change in segmental form, but no
change in the morphophonemic form (or in the orthography). Established
examples of verb >noun shift kind are abstract, discount, import,
refill, transfer Gimson/2/, and of verb > adjective shift: abstract,
frequent, moderate, perfect. There is a certain amount of evidence that,
at least in some varieties of English, these distinction are no longer
consistently drawn, and such examples are becoming clear cases of
conversion. Nevertheless, the pattern is still productive, particularly
so in the nominalization of phrasal verbs: established examples are show
off, walr-over and recent examples are hang-up, put-down.

There is also a kind of partial conversion where a noun ending in a
voiceless fricative (but excluding / /) is turned into a verb by
replacing the final consonant with the corresponding voiced fricative.
The process is no longer productive. Examples are belief / believe,
sheath / sheathe, advice / advise.

Clear cases of conversion.

The least clear cases of conversion have been considered first, but
there are innumerable perfectly clear cases. For many types a variety of
subclassifications is possible. Thus instances of noun > verb conversion
can be classified according to whether the noun shows location (to
garage the car ) or instrument ( to hammer a nail ) and so on, or
according to formal criteria of whether the base is simplex or complex
and so on. No attempt is made below to distinguish of these kinds.

The major kinds of conversion are noun > verb, verb >noun, adjective >
noun and adjective >verb. Established examples of noun > verb conversion
are to badger, to bottle, to bridge, to commission, to mail, to
mushroom, to skin, to vecation. Recent examples are to chopper, to
data-dank, to leaflet, to network, and to trash. Established examples of
verb >noun conversion are a call, a command, a dump, a guess, a spy and
recent examples are a commute, a goggle, and an interrupt. Established
examples of adjective > verb conversion are to better, to dirty, to
empty, to faint, to open, to right and a recent example is to total (a
car). Established examples of adjective >noun conversion are relatively
rare and are frequently restricted in their syntactic occurrence. For
example, the poor cannot be made plural or have any other determiner.
Less restricted examples are a daily, a regular, a roast. This type
seems to have become much more productive recently, and recent examples
includes a creative, a crazy, a double, a dyslexic, a gay, a given, a

Prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs, interjections and even affixes can
all act as bases of conversion, as in shown by to up (prices), but me no
buts, the hereafter, to heave-no (a recent example) and a maxi (this
might be a case of clipping). Moreover, most of these form classes can
undergo conversion into more than one form class, so that a preposition
down, for example, can become a verb (he downed his beer), a noun (he
has a down on me) and possibly an adjective (the down train).

Extrocentric phrase compounds might also be classified here as
instances of conversion of whole phrase. Established examples where the
phrase acts as a noun are an also-ran, a forget-me-not, a has-been and a
recent examples as a don’t-know. An established example where the phrase
acts as an adjective is under-the-weather.

Derivation by a zero-morpheme.

The term ‘zero-derivation’.

Derivation without a derivative morpheme occurs in English as well as
mother languages. Its characteristic is that a certain stem is used for
the formation of a categorically different word without a derivative
element being added. In synchronic terminology, they are syntagmas
whose determinatum is not expressed in the significant (form). The
significate (content) is represented in the syntagma but zero marked
(i.e. it has no counterpart in form): loan vb ‘(make up) loan’, look
substantive is ‘(act, instance of) look(ing)’. As the nominal and verbal
forms which occur most frequently have no ending end (a factor which
seems to have played a part in the coining of the term ‘conversion’ by
Kruisinga/6/) are those in which nouns and verbs are recorded in
dictionaries, such words as loan, look may come to be considered as
‘converted’ nouns or verbs. It has become customary to speak of the
‘conversion’ of substantive adjectives and verbs. The term ‘conversion’
has been used for various things. Kruisinga/6/ himself speaks of
conversion whenever a word takes on function which is not its basic one,
as the use of an adjective as a primary (the poor, the British, shreds
of pink, at his best). He includes quotation words (his “I don’t knows”)
and the type stone wall (i.e. substantives used as preadjuncts). One is
reminded of Bally’s ‘transposition’. Koziol/8/ follows Kruisinga’s
treatment and Biese/3/ adopts the same method. Their standpoints is
different. The foregoing examples illustrate nothing but syntactic
patterns. That poor (presented by the definite article, restricted to
the plural, with no plural morpheme added) can function as a primary, or
that government, as in government job, can be used as preadgunct, is a
purely syntactic matter. At the most it could be said, with regard to
the poor, that an inflectional morpheme understood but zero marked.
However inflectional morphemes have a predominantly function character
while the addition of lexical content is of secondary importance. As for
government job the syntactic use of primary as a preadjunct is regularly
unmarked, so no zero morpheme can be claimed. On the other hand, in
government-al, -al adds lexical content, be it ever so little:
‘pertaining to characterizing government’. Therefore governmental is a
syntagma while government (job) is not. That the phrase jar-off can be
used as a preadjunct is again a syntactic matter. Characterized adverbs
do not develop such functions in any case. We will not therefore, used
the term conversion. As a matter of fact, nothing is converted, but
certain stem are used for the derivation of lexical syntagmas, with the
determinatum assuming a zero form. For similar reasons, the term
‘functional change’ is infelicitous. The term itself doesn’t enter
another functional category, which becomes quite evident when it is
considered the inflected forms.

Endings and derivation.

In inflected languages the derivant and derivative usually have a
characteristic nominal or verbal ending. But, ending are not derivative
morphemes. When English was still a more amply inflected language, the
present type existed, but inflectional differences were more in
evidence. Cf. the OE verbs besceopian, fugelian, gamenian, hearmian,
freon (freogian), dernian and their respective bases besceop, fugol, and
the weakening of ending was little bearing on this subject. With regard
to denominate derivation, however, it is interesting to note that the
leveling of endings brought about the loss of distinction in ME between
the OE conjugations. The -an of ryth-an as well as the -ian of loc-ian
resulted in -en. This reducted the number of patterns for denominal
verbs to one.

Derivation connection between verbs and nouns.

With respect to both denominal verbs (type loan verb f. loan
substantive) and deverbal substantives (type look substantive f look
verb) it can be seen that as early as Old English a derivational
connection existed between the present-infinitive stem of weak verb on
the one hand and the stem of nouns on the other. As for deverbal
substantive, there was some competition in the early stages of the
language. Like other Germanic languages, Old English had strong verbs
that were connected with substantives containing an ablaut vowel of the
verb (ridan/rad, bindan/bend, beran/bora). However , this derivational
type was unproductive so far back as Old English. The present-infinitive
stem of strong verbs came to be felt to represent the derivative basis
for deverbal substantives in exactly the same way as did the
corresponding stem of weak verbs: ride verb/ride substantive=look
verb/look substantive. But this contention of Biese’s needs
qualification: ‘these facts indicate the resistance should by strong
verbs to the process of converting them into nouns before, owing to the
introduction of weak inflections, a distinct idea of a universal
verb-stem had been developed’. Many of the verbs had weak forms that
derived substantives at an early date have either never had weak forms
are rare or later than the substantives. Verbs such as bite, fall, feel,
fold, freeze, have, grind, hide make steal, tread are cases in point.
This goes to show that the existence of weak verb forms is incidental to
the rise of a derivational connection between the present infinitive
stem of strong verbs and the stem of substantive.

This derivational connection is partly due to class where a strong verb
and a substantive of the same root existed in OE and where phonetic
development resulted in closely resembling forms for both in ME. OE for,
faru was fare by the end of the 12th century while the corresponding OE
verb faran had reached the stage of faren or fare about the same time.
Other examples of pairs are bidan ‘stay’/bid ‘delay, dwelling place’,
bindan ‘bind’/bind ‘band, tie’, drincan ‘drink’/drinc, drinca ‘drink’,
fleotan ‘float’/fleot ‘place, where water flows’, helpan ‘help’/help,
hreowan ‘rue’/hreow ‘rue’, slepan ‘sleep’/sl p, slep ‘sleep’. The
derivational relation as it have been described them were fully
established around 200.

Zero-derivation as a “specifically English process”.

It is usually assumed that the loss of ending gave rise to derivation by
a zero morpheme. Jespersen/5/ gives a somewhat to simplifying picture of
its rise and development . ‘As a great many native nouns and verbs
had…come be identical in form…, as the same things happened with
numerous originally French words…, it was quite natural that the
speech-instinct should take it as a matter of course that whenever the
need of a verb arose, it might be formed without any derivative ending
from the corresponding substantive’. He called the process ‘specifically
English’. As a matter of fact, derivation by a zero morpheme is neither
specifically English nor does it start, as Jespersen’s presentation
would make it appear when most ending had disappeared. Biese’s/3/ study
shows quit clearly that it began to develop on a larger scale at the
beginning of the 13th century , i.e. at a time when final verbal -n had
not yet been dropped, when the plural ending of the present was not yet
-en or zero, and when the great influx of French loan words had not yet
started. Bauer doesn’t think that the weakening of the inflectional
system had anything to do with the problem of zero derivation. Stems are
immediate elements for the speaker, who is aware of the syntagmatic
character of an inflected form. He therefor has no trouble in connecting
verbal and nominal stems provided they occur in sufficiently numerous
pairs to establish a derivational pattern. In Latin which is a highly
inflected language, denominal verbs are numerous: corona/coronare,
catena/catenare, lacrima/lacrimare; cumulus/cumulare, locus/locare,
truncus/truncare, nomen, nomin-/nominare; sacer/sacrare. In Modern
Spanish there are full sets of verbal ending (though in the declension
only gender and number are expressed) both types of zero-derivation are
very productive. The weakening of the inflectional system in English,
therefor , can’t have much to do with development of zero-derivation.

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that despite the relative
productivity of corresponding derivational types in other languages, the
derivative range the English patterns, that of denominal verbs, is still
greater. The explanation of this seems to de that English, unlike Latin,
French, Spanish, or German, never had any competitive types. So,
whenever a derivation was made nouns, it followed the one pattern that
existed, i.e. derivation by zero morpheme. The only derivative morphemes
PE has for denominal verbs are -ate, -ize, -ify. They have restricted
range of derivative force: -ate is latinizing and leaned, -ify is
learned while -ize is chiefly technical. All three derive almost
exclusively on a Latin morphologic basis. The suffixal type dark-en was
not originally a deadjectival pattern; in any case, it would have to a
certain extent rivaled the type idle verb f. Idle adjective only.
Derivation by a morpheme, esp. The type loan verb f. Loan substantive,
must therefore be considered the norm and is quite naturally very strong
in English. In German, there are many competitive types. It is bath
mutated and unmutated verbs (faul-en, hart-en, draht-en, haut-en). There
are also denominal verbs with a derivative morpheme ( stein-ig-en,
rein-ig-en; with a foreign morpheme telefon-ier-en, lack-ier-en ). In
addition, German makes use of the prefixes be-, er-, ver-. Such types as
ver-rohen, ver-jung-er, vergrosser-n; er-kalt-en, er-leichter-n;
be-end-ig-en, be-herz-ig-en, ver-eid-ig-en have no counterparts in
English. English be- has never played a serious role in denominal
derivation. Nor has the type em-bed ever become productive to any larger
extent. The productivity of the type loan verb f. Loan substantive seems
to be thus reasonably for. The deverbal type look substantive f. Look
verb has been less prolific and is partly bound up with certain
syntactic patterns of grouping. For this, it is do had competitive
patterns. There are the suffixal types arriv-al, break-ade, guid-ance,
improve-ment, organiz-ation and the verbal substantive type writ-ing
though the latter has now chiefly role of deriving action nouns proper.
This is the reason why so many zero-derivatives from verbs of Latin and
French origin, coined the 15th and 16th centuries, were subsequently
replaced by suffixal derivatives in -al, -age, -ance, ment. “After 1650
the suffix formation have completely gained the upper hand of the direct
conversion of the disyllabic and trisyllabic words derived from French
and Latin verbs”(Biese).

Zero-derivation with loan-words.

As for Latin and French words and derivation from, there are
comparatively few derivatives before (Biese/3/). French words were for
some time felt to be foreign elements and were not “converted” with the
same ease as native stems were. The phenomenon is in no way different
from the one it is observed with derivation by suffixes. Loan words
remain strangers for a time, and it usually takes time before a
derivation type is applied to a heterogeneous class of words. Zero –
derivation was facilitated by the eo-existence of borrowed substantives
and verbs., as anchor substantive a 880 (=L) / anchor verb e 1230 (the
OED has doubts, but F ancrer is recorded in the 12th e., as Bloeh ).
Account substantive 1260/verb 1303, change substantive 1225/verb 1230,
charge substantive 1225/verb 1297, cry substantive 1275/verb 1225, dance
substantive 1300/verb 1300, double adjective 1225/verb 1290, doubt
substantive 1225/verb 1225, poison substantive 1230/verb 13.., rule
substantive 1225/verb 1225.

There are quite a few verbs with French roods for which no French verbs
are recorded and which may accordingly be treated as zero derivatives:
feeble verb 1225/adjective 1175, hardy verb 1225/adjective 1225, master
verb 1225/substantive a 1000, pool verb 1275/adjective 1200, saint verb
1225/substantive 1175. On the other hand, the substantive grant 1225 may
be derived from the verb grant 1225. It is only after 1300 that the
process of zero-derivation is as firmly rooted with French as with
native words. Though French originals for later English words may occur,
it is just as safe to consider them as derivatives, as centre verb 1610
fr, centre substantive 1374, combat verb 1564 fr, combat substantive
1567 (or the reverse), guard verb 1500 fr, guard substantive 1426 and

Words of Scandinavian origin were more easily incorporated than French
words, and derivation occurs as early as the 13th c.: trist “trust”,
boon “ask as a boon, pray for”, brod “shoot, sprout”, smithy “make into
a smithy” a.o. (see Biese /3/).

The illustration of various types.

Type loan verb fr. loan substantive

(desubstantival verbs.)

Many PE verbs. go back to OE : answer (andsharu / andswarian), blossom
(blostm / blostnian), claw (clawu / clawian), fish (fisc / fiscian),
fire (fyr / fytian), harm (hearm / hearmian),wonder (wundor / wundrian),
bill “strike with the bill, peck”, ground “bring to the ground”, loan
(1240), back (OE), butter (OE), experiment (ME), lamb (OE), night (OE),
piece (ME), pit “cart into a pit”(OE), plank (ME), plate (ME), plow,
plough (OE), plague (ME), priest (OE), promise (ME), prose (ME), ridge
(OE), rivet (ME), rode (ME), root (EME), sack (OE), sauce “season” (ME),
scale (ME), screen (ME), shoulder (OE), side (OE), silver (OE), sponge
(OE), spot (ME), story (ME), streak (OE), summer (OE), table (ME), thong
(OE), tin (OE), veil (ME), winter (OE), all before 1500.

Angle “run into a corner” (ME), balance (ME), butcher (ME), cipher (ME),
cloister (ME), coffin (ME), collar (ME), colt “run wild as a colt” (ME),
cipher (ME), fancy (1465), fin (OE), gesture (ME), girdle (OE), glove
(OE), gossip (OE), grade (1511), husk (ME), kennel (ME), knob (ME),
ladle (OE), latch (ME), launder (ME), lecture (ME), libel (ME), mother
(OE), neighbor (OE), place (ME), pole (ME), riddle “speak in riddles”
(OE), shell (OE), shop (ME), star (OE), stomach “be offended” (ME), sun
(OE), vision (ME), all 16th century blanket (ME), casket (1467), lamp
(ME), leaf (OE), pilot (1530), race “run” (ME), soldier (ME), all 17th
century Capture (1541), diamond (ME), onion (ME), stocking (1583), tour
(ME), all 18th century Scrimmage (1470), shin (OE), signal (ME), torpedo
(1520), vacation (ME), wolf “eat like a wolf” (OE), 19th century, major

It would be difficult to give a complete list of derivatives as there is
an ever growing tendency verbs from substantives without derivative
morphemes. A few recent are service, contact (1929), audition, debut,
package, chairman, page, date (1928), process (1945), waitress (1946),
pressure (not in OED or Spl.), feature (rec., as in the play features).
Mencken/9/ gives many more, most of which are, however, hardly used.

It is likewise useless to try a classification to sense-groups, as there
is no class-denoting formative. The verb may denote almost any verbal
action connected with the basis of the underlying substantive. The verb
bed has or has had the meanings “spread a bed”, “put to bed” (with
various implications), “go to bed”, “sleep with”, and there are more
technical meanings. Bladin/4/ had already pointed out that “every action
or occurrence can be designated by a verb derived from the very noun the
idea of which most easily enters the mind of the person wanting to state
a fact”, and if Jespersen says that “it is difficult to give a general
definition of the sense-relation between substantive and de-substantival
verbs”, this is rather an understatement. It may be recognized certain
groups, as “put in …”, “furnish, cover, affect …”, but it should be
noted that each of these senses is only one the many which the same verb
has or may have. Biese/3/, therefore, makes no attempt at
classification, and he is certainly right in doing so. It may, however,
be worthy of note that the privative sense as in dust “remove the dust
(from)” is frequent only with technical terms denoting various kinds of
dressing or cleaning. Exs are bur wool or cotton, burl cloth, poll,
pollard trees, bone, gut, scale fish.

The meaning of a certain verb is clear in a certain speech situation.
That brain means “smash the b.”,can “preserve in cans”, winter “pass the
winter”, is a result of given circumstances which establish the bridge
of understanding between the speaker and the person or persons spoken

There are derivatives from proper names, as boycott 1880 (orig. spelt
with a capital, from the name of Captain Boycott who was first
boycotted), Shanghay 1871 ‘drug and press on board a vessel’, Zeppelin
1916 ‘bomb from a zeppelin’ (also clipped = zap).

Some verbs often occur in the -ing substantive only (originally or
chiefly), while finite verb forms or infinitives are not or rarely used,
as hornpiping ‘dancing a hornpipe’ (no verb rec.), slimming, orcharding
‘cultivation of fruit trees (no verb rec.). Dialling ‘the art of
construction dials’, speeching, electioneering, engineering,
parlamenteering, volunteering are the original forms. Converted cpds
with -monger for a second-word are current only in the -ing form
(merit-mongering, money-mongering etc.). Innings are not matched by any
other verb form, nor are cocking ‘cock-fighting’, hopping ‘hop-picking’,
moon-shining ‘illicit distilling’ and others.

Type idle verb fr. idle adjective. (deadjectival verbs).

To the OE period go back bitter, busy, cool, fair, fat, light, open,
right, yellow (obs black, bright, dead, strong, old).

From the period between about 1150 and 1200 are recorded obs sick
‘suffer illness’, soft, low (obs meek, hory, hale). The following date
from the period between about 1200 and 1300 (Biese has included the
Cursor Mundi in this period): black, brown, loose, slight, better, blind
(obs hardly, certain, rich, wide, broad, less). From the 14th century
are recorded ready, clear, grey, sore, pale, full, dull, round, gentle,
English, tender, perfect (obs able, sound, weak, unable, honest, noble).
From the 15th century purple, stale, clean, from the 16th century
shallow, slow, quiet, empty, bloody, idle, equal, dirty, parallel (and
many other now obs words, as Biese points out). The 17th century coined
crimson, giddy, worst, blue, gallant, shy, tense, ridicule, unfit, ruddy
(and many how obs words. Biese). From 18th century Are recorded net
‘gain as a net sum’ 1758, total (once 1716, then 1859), negative,
northern (said of landscape), invalid ‘enter on the sick-list’, queer
‘cheat’ , from the 19th century desperate ‘drive desperate’,
stubborn, sly ‘move in a stealthy manner’, chirk ‘make cheerful’,
gross ‘make a gross profit’ 1884, southern (said of wind), aeriform,
true. From our century there are such words as pretty, wise, lethal,

Usually, deadjectival verbs denote change of state, and the meaning is
either ‘become …’ or ‘make …’. Intransitive verbs with meaning
‘be…’ (as idle, sly, equal) from quite a small group. Some verbs have
a comparative or superlative as root: better, best, worst, perhaps

Type out verb fr out particle (verbs derived from

locative particles).

Derivation from locative particles is less common than the preceding
types. In Old English there are yppan, fremman (with i-mutation from
up, fram), framian, utian. Later are over ‘to master’ 1456, obs under
‘cast down’ 1502, off ‘put off’ 1642, down 1778, nigh ‘draw near’ 1200,
thwart 1250, west ‘move towards the west’ 1381, south 1725, north 1866,
east 1858.

These words, however, are not very common (except out and thwart).

Type hail verb fr hail interjection (verbs derived from

minor particles).

Derivation from exclamation and interjection (most of there
onomatopoeias) is more frequent. It will, however, be noted that many of
these conversions have undergone functional and formal changes only
without acquiring a well – grounded lexical existence, their meaning
merely being “say…, utter the sound…”. Exs are hail 1200, nay “say
nay, refuse” 13.., mum 1399, obs. Hosht “reduce to silence” etc., whoo
(16th century), humph (17th century), encore, dee-hup (to a horse),
pshaw, halloa, yaw (speak affectedly”, hurrah (18th century), tally-ho
(fox-hunting term), boo, yes, heigh-ho “sigh”, bravo, tut, bow-wow,
haw-haw, boo-hoo “weep noisily” etc. (Biese/3/ also Jespersen/5/).

The meaning ‘say…’ may occur with other words also when they are used
as exclamation or interjections, as with iffing (other verb forms are
not recorded), hence ‘order hence’ (obs., 1580). And it may be reckoned
here all the words of the type sir ‘call sir’.

From about 1600 on, geminated forms also occur as verbs. A few have been
mentioned in the foregoing paragraph; others are snip-snap
(1593),dingle-dangle, ding-dong, pit-pat (17th century), pitter-patter,
wiggle-waggle (18th century), criss-cross, rap-tap, wig-wag (19th
century) etc.

The limits of verbal derivation.

Derivation from suffixed nouns is uncommon. Biese’s/3/ treatment of the
subject suffers from a lack of discrimination. He has about 600 examples
of substantives and adjectives; but the ‘suffixes’ are mere
terminations. Words such herring, pudding, nothing, worship are not
derivatives. The terminations -ace, -ice, -ogue, -y (as in enemy) have
never had any derivative force.

Theoretically it would seem that the case of a suffixal composite such
as boyhood is not different from that of a fill compound such as
spotlight. But obviously the fact that suffixes are categorizers
generally prevents suffixal derivatives from becoming the determinants
of pseudo-compound verbs. There are very few that are in common use,
such as waitress (rec.), package (rec., chiefly in form packaged,
packaging), manifold OE (obsolescent today), forward 1596, referee 1889,
such adjectives as dirty, muddy. Many more are recorded in OED (as
countess, patroness, squiress, traitress ‘play the…’, fellowship,
kingdom a.o.).

Another reason seems to be still more important. Many of the nominal
suffixes derive substantives from verbs., and it would be contrary to
reason to form such verbs as arrival, guidance, improvement,
organization when arrive, guide, improve, organize exist. Similar
consideration apply to deadjectival derivatives like freedom or
idleness. The verb disrupture is recorded in OED (though only in
participial forms) but it is not common. Reverence is used as a verb,
but it is much older (13.., 1290) than the verb revere (1661). It should
also be noted that the alternation revere/reverence shows
characteristics of vowel change and stress which are irregular with
derivation by means of -ance, -ence. For same reason reference is not a
regular derivative from refer, which facilitated the coinage reference
‘provide with references’ etc. 1884.

There are no verbal derivatives from prefixed words either. The verb
unfit ‘make unfit’ 1611 is isolated.

Type look substantive fr. look verb (deverbal


Deverbal substantives are much less numerous than denominal verbs. The
frequency-relation between the two types has been approximately the same
in all periods of the language. An exception is to be made for the
second half of the 13th century “when the absolute number of
conversion-substantives is larger that of the verbs formed from
substantives” (Biese/3/).

Form the 13th century are recorded (unless otherwise mentioned in
parentheses, the resp. Verbs are OE) dread (1175), have, look, steal,
weep, call (1225), crack, ‘noise’, dwell, hide, make, mislike, mourn,
show, spit, ‘spittle’, stint, wrest ‘act of twisting’ a.o.

From the later ME period are recorded (indications in parentheses refer
to the respective verbs) fall (OE), feel (OE), keep (OE), lift (ME),
move (ME), pinch (ME), put (ME), run (OE), snatch (ME), sob (ME), walk
(OE), wash (OE).

From the 16th century date craze (ME), gloom (ME), launch (ME), push
(ME), rave (ME), say (OE), scream (ME), anub (ME), swim (OE), wave (OE);
from the 17th century contest (1579), converse (ME), grin (OE), laugh
(OE), produce (1499), sneeze (1493), take (ME), yawn (OE); from the 18th
century finish (ME), hand (OE), pry (ME), ride (OE), sit (OE). From the
19th century fix (ME), meet (OE), shampoo (1762), spill (OE).

As for the meaning of deverbal substantive, the majority denote the act
or rather a specific instance of what the verbal idea expresses quote,
contest, fall, fix, knock, lift etc. This has been so from the beginning
(Hertrampf and Biese). “The abstract nouns, including nouns of action,
are not only the most common type of conversion-substantives; they are
also those of the greatest importance during the early periods of the
development of conversions” (Biese). “The conversion-substantive used in
a personal or concrete sense are, especially in the earlier stages, of
comparatively slight importance” (ib.).

Concrete senses show mince ‘minced meat’, produce ‘product’, rattle
‘instrument’, sprout ‘branch’, shoot ‘branch’, shear ‘shorn animal’,
sink ‘sewer’, clip ‘instrument’, cut ‘passage, opening’, spit ‘spittle’,
stride ‘one of a flight of steps’.

Sbs denoting the result of the verbal action are catch, take, win
‘victory’, cut ‘provision’, find, melt ‘melded substance’, snatch
‘excerpt from a song’ e.c.

Place-denoting are fold, bend, slip, wush ‘sandbank’, dump etc.

Sbs denoting the impersonal agent are draw ‘attraction’, catch (of a
gate, a catching question etc.), sting ‘animal organ’, tread ‘part of
the sole that touches the ground’, do, take-in, all ‘tricky
contrivance’, wipe ‘handkerchief’ sl etc.

There are also number of substantives denoting a person. OE knew the
type boda ‘bode’ (corresponding to L scriba, OHG sprecho) which in ME
was replaced by the type hunter. Several words survived, however, as
bode, help (OE help), hint (the last quotation in OED is from 1807), and
they are occasional ME formations, as ally 1380 (if it is not rather
French allie); but could be apprehended as formed after the type. Obs.
Cut (a term of abuse) 1490 does not seem to have any connection with the
verb cut, and scold ‘scolding woman’ 1200 is doubtful, the verb is first
quoted 1377.

The word wright, which now occurs only as a second-word of cpds
(cart-wright etc.) is no longer apprehended as an agent noun (belonging
to wolk). Otherwise all deverbal substantives denoting a personal agent
are of Modern English origin, 16th century or more recent. The type
probably came into existence under the influence of the types pickpocket
and runabout. Exs are romp ‘child or woman fond of romping’ 1706, flirt
1732, crack ‘cracksman’ 1749 (thieves’ sl), bore ‘tiresome p.’ 1812,
sweep ‘chimney sweeper’ 1812, coach ‘tutor, trainer’ 1848 (misleadingly
classed in OED, as if from substantive coach), discard ‘discarded
person’. The great number of depreciative terms is striking.

For the sake of convenience it is repeated here the examples of such
personal deverbal substantives as form the second-words of cpds: upstart
1555, by-blow 1595=obs. By-slip 1670 ‘bastard’, chimney-sweep 1614,
money-grub 1768, shoeblack and bootbleck 1778, new-come ‘new arrival’
1577, bellhop, carhop rec.

The formation if deverbal substantives may be considered from the angle
of syntactical grouping. No doubt there are different frequency-rates
for a word according to the position which it has in a sentence.
Biese/3/ has devoted a chapter to the question and has established
various types of grouping which have influenced the growth of the type.
It can be seen that deverbal substantives frequently occur in
prepositional groups (to be in the know), that type are often the object
of give, make, have, take (less so of other verbs), that only 11% of the
examples show the deverbal substantives as subject of the sentence and
that they are frequently by adjuncts. The most important patterns are
‘(be) in the know’ and ‘(have) a look’. Exs of the first type are
phrases such as in the long run, upon the go, with a thrust of his hair,
after this sit, for a tell, for the kill, for the draw, of English make,
at a qulp, etc.

As for the t. ‘(have) a look’, “the use of phrasal verbs with
conversion-substantives may be said to be a very marked feature during
all periods from early ME up to the present time. As shown by these
quotations, the origins of this use may be said to go back as far as the
OE period” (Biese/3/). Exs are; have a wash, a smoke, a swim, a chat
etc., give a laugh, a cry, a break, a toss, a whistle, the chick, the
go-by etc., take a ride, a walk, a swim, a read, the lead etc., make a
move, a dive, a bolt, a bow etc. etc.

It will be interesting to compare zero-derivatives with the -ing
substantives. Historical speaking there is no longer a competition so
far as the formation of common substantives is concerned. The number of
new-formed -ing substantives has been steadily decreasing since the
beginning of the MoE period. According to Biese the figures for newly
introduced -ing substantives, as compared with zero-derivatives of the
same verbs, are as followes: 13th century = 62, 14th = 80, 15th = 19,
16th =12, 17th century =5, 18th century =2, 19th century =0. Biese/3/
has obviously considered the rise of new forms only, but the semantic
development of -ing substantives. Otherwise his figures would have been
different. Any verb may derive an -ing substantive which can take the
definite article. The -ing then invariably denotes the action of the
verb: the smoking of the gentlemen disturbed me. The zero-derivative, as
compared with the ing, never denotes the action but gives the verbal
ideal in a nominalized form, i.e. the notional content of the verbal
idea (with the secondary implication of the idea ‘act’): the gentlemen
withdrew for a smoke. “In their use with phrasal verbs -ing forms have
become obsolete, whereas there is an ever increasing number of
conversion substantives used in conjunction with verbs like make, take
etc….”(Biese/3/). On the other hand, common substantives in ing are
now chiefly denominal, denoting something concrete, chiefly material
which eliminates ing as a rival for zero-derivatives. According to
Biese/3/ this distinction is already visible in the early stages of
conversion. Biese points out that a prepositional substantive following
a substantive is almost always a ‘genitivus subjectivus’ (the grind of
wheels), whereas the same type of group following an -ing substantive is
most often a ‘genitivens objectivus’ which is certainly an observation
to the point, as it shows the verbal character of the -ing substantives
as compared with the more nominal character of zero-derivatives.

A few instances of semantically differentiated derivatives are
bother/bothering, build/building, proceeds/proceedings, meet/meeting,
set/setting, turn/turning, bend/bending, find/finding, sit/sitting,
cut/cutting, feel/feeling, paint/painting.

Sometimes deverbal substantives are only idiomatic in the plural: it
divers me the creeps (the jumps), turn on the weeps A sl, have the
prowls A sl, the bends ‘caisson disease’, for keeps ‘for good’.

An apparent exception are derivatives from expressive verbs in -er (type
clatter) and -le (type sparkle) which are pretty numerous (Biese/3/),
but in fact most of these verbs are not derivatives in the way verbs in
-ize or -ify are, because few simple verbs exist alongside of the
composites. These words are better described as composites of expressive
elements, so the suffixes are not categorizes.

Derivation from prefixed verbs is restricted to composites with the
prefixes dis-, mis-, inter-, and re- (see the respective prefixes). With
other prefixes, there have only been attempts at nominal derivation.
Biese/3/ has befall, beget, begin, behave, belay, belove, beseech,
bespeak, bestow, betide, betrust as substantives. But they were all
short-lived and rare. With the exception of belay 1908, a technical
term, none seems to be in use today.

Biese/3/ has established a so-called detain- type, i.e. substantives
derived from what he considers to be prefixed verbs. It do not seen the
point of this distinction as one could analyze very few of his 450 words
or so. The majority are unit words.

Zero-derivation and stress.

It shall now be made a few remarks about such types as have not been
treated in this chapter. The stressing tendencies differ according to
whether the basis is a unit word or a composite, also according to
whether derivation is made from a noun or a verb.

Nominal derivation from composite verbs involves shift of stress.
Examples are the types runaway / blackout, overthrow, interchange,
misfit, reprint which are derived from actual or possible verbal
composites with the stress pattern –. The process has not yet come to
an end which will explain that the OED, Webster and others very often
give stress indications which no longer tally with the speech habits of
the majority. Many cbs of the blackout type and all the substantives of
the types misfit and reprint are stressed like the verbs resp. Verbal
phrases in OED.

Of prefixal types only verbs with inter-, mis- and re- have developed
stress-distinguished substantives. No similar pairs exist for neg. un-
(no verbal type exists, anyway), reversative un-, be-, de- (be- and de-
are only deverbal).

Verbs derived from composite substantives do not change their stress
pattern. Cp. such verbs as backwash, background, afterdate, by-pass,
counterweight, outlaw, outline, underbrush which are forestressed like
their underlying nominal bases. This also explains the fluctuation in
the stressing of counter- verbs, as counter-sign, counter-sink, stressed
like the substantives though the verbal stress pattern is middle
stress/heavy stress.

With unit words the current tendency is to retain the stress of the
underlying basis in deverbal nouns as well as in denominal verbs. We may
call this homologic stressing. Bradin/4/ had stated the fact for
denominal verbs without, however, discussing the problem as to the
obvious exceptions, while Jespersen/5/ speaks of ‘such an important
thing in ford-formation as the stress-shifting in record substantive and

To a certain extent, it is a stress distinction between nouns and verbs
which are otherwise homophonous. This distinctive stress pattern occurs
chiefly with disyllabic words, record substantive / record verb.
examples are contract, accent, affix, infix, prefix, suffix, augment,
impress, concert, contrast, convert, escort, essay, export, object,
subject, project, present, progress, protest, survey, torment, transfer.

The number of non-shifting examples is much greater, however. It will be
first given instances of forestressed words with homologic stress:
comment, compact, exile, figure, plaster, preface, prelude, prison,
quarrel, climax, focus, herald, process, program, triumph, waitress,
rivet, segment, sojourn, turmoil, contact, ‘bring or come into contact’,
congress ‘meet in a congress’, incense ‘burn incense’, probate. To these
may be added such verbs as are felt to be derived from a substantive and
therefore forestressed like the underlying bases, at least in AE:
accent, conflict, concrete (as in concrete a wall, also in OED),
contract (as in contract a document), digest (as digest a book), export,
import (prob. originating in contrastive stressing), recess (as recess a
wall), survey (in certain senses), torment (frequent), transfer (the
regular stressing as a railway team).

The group of non-shifting endstressed words is considerably larger. Unit
words beginning with de-, dis-, re- are especially numerous. Examples
are: accord, advance, assent, attack, decay, delay, defeat, dispatch,
despute, escape, exclaim, (as a deverbal substantive ‘presenting
position of a rifle’), precise, relax, remove, repay, reform, support

On the other hand, it is found instances of distinctive stressing in AE:
address, conserves, discard, discharge are often heard with forestress
when substantives, also relay and research; reject substantive with
forestress is the only pronunciation possible. Of these, relay and
research may be explained as reinterpretations after the t. reprint
substantive /reprint verb; reject is perh. influenced by subject,
object, project, traject. In any case, this tendency towards distinctive
stress in deverbal substantives is weak as compared with that towards
homologic stress.

To sum up: the tendency with denominal verbs is to give them the stress
of the underlying nominal basis, which has in many cases led to
homologic stress with all or part of the verbal meanings versus older
distinctive stress. Deverbal substantives, on the whole, show the same
inclination to homologic stress. But there is also a weak tendency
towards distinctive stress, though chiefly in AE. As for the tendency
toward stress distinction between nominal and verbal homophones pointed
out by Jespersen/5/, it was perhaps vaguely on the analogy of composites
that it came into existence. The original stress with these loans from
French or Latin was on the last syllable (F absent, L abstract(um)), so
verbs retained this stress all the more easily as many native verbs were
so stressed: become, believe, forbid, forget, mislead etc., whereas
almost all disyllabic native substantives, unit words as well as
composites were forestressed (the few contrary examples such as
unhealth, unrest, untruth, belief hardly count against the
overwhelming majority). This may have led to a tendency towards
forestress with non-native disyllabic substantives too. But what has
taken on the character of a strong derivative device with composites has
proved much weaker with unit words on account of their entirely
different structure. Further development seems to point in the direction
of homologic stressing.

Combination of the type hanger-on may be mentioned here. As they are
functionally characterized by the suffix -er, the absence of stress
shift is only natural. The stress pattern of the underlying verbal
phrase is retained.

Practical part.

At first, I would like to mention that word-formation is not learned at
all neither at primary nor at secondary school. But some items of it we
can find there. I’ve analyzed two courses: Russian (English by
Vereshchagina, Pretykina) and foreign (Magic Time) one.

The course by Vereshchagina, Pretykina consists of : the text book, the
teacher’s book, the reading book, the activity book, the audio cassette.

In the book for the 3rd class I’ve found the points of word-formation:
the suffixal formation of adverbs. There is said that adverbs usually
derive from adjectives by adding the suffix -ly:

quick-quickly bad-badly


At the same time there are given some exceptions:




slow-slowly But good-well



It’s offered to children to do the exercise, where the task is to read
and compare.

She is a slow reader. She reads slowly.

He is a quick runner. He runs quickly.

She is a bad cook. She cooks badly.

He is a good footballer. He plays football well.

It is interesting to mention that in the one exercise there are the
words derived in suffixal way of word-formation and also a conversion
cook N and cook V. But nothing is explained.

“Magic Time” is a fully integrated two-level course for children
learning English as a foreign language. It’s also may be used either
with students who have had a first introduction to English or with
complete beginners.

The 1st (2nd) level consist of: the student’s book, the activity book,
the teacher’s book, the set of 2 cassettes.

But there is not any word about word formation.


At first there are some words about the term ‘word’, which should be
definite. It is taken to denote the smallest independent indivisible
unit of speech susceptible of being used in isolation. In “Definition of
fields of word-formation” is said that branch of the linguistics which
studies the patterns on which a language forms new lexical units, i.e.
words. At the next part there are some points of affixal formation:
suffixal and prefixal. I’ve made some tables of derivatives: nouns,
verbs, adjectives. You can find the columns named productivity,
word-formative model, meaning and semantic classes of stems, historical
appearance and evolution, where the suffix is used and some more notes
all these points are discussed in the table of derivative nouns. The
suffixal word formation: nouns -er, -or, -ee, -ist, -ite; -ness, -ity,
-ism, -ship, -dom, -ment, -ation, -ery, -acy, -age; adjectives -ed, -y,
-ish, -en(-n), -less, -able, -ous, -an(-ean, -ian); verbs -ize,
-fy(-ify), -ate, -en. The prefixal word formation: adjectives un-, in-,
non-, a-, self-, well-, ill-; verbs un-, de-, dis-, mis-, under-, over-,
up-, re-, be.

The most interesting part is ‘conversion’. Conversion is the change in
form class of a form without any corresponding change of form. Thus the
change form napalm, which has been used exclusively as a noun, came to
be used as a verb as a case of conversion.

In the chapter ‘productivity’ we can see that conversion is extremely
productive way of producing new words in English. There do not appear
to be morphological restriction on the form that can undergo conversion,
go that compounds derivatives acronyms, blends clipped forms and simplex
words are all acceptable inputs to the conversion process.

The part ‘conversion as a syntactic process’ is about the conversion is
the use of a form which regarded as being basically of one form class as
though it were a member or different form class, without any concomitant
change of form. There are, however, a number of instance where changes
of this type occur with such case and so regularly that many scholars
prefer to see them as matters of syntactic usage rather than a

Conversion is frequently called ‘zero-derivation’ a term which many
scholars prefer. Most writers who use both terms appear to use them as
synonyms. There are some types of conversion or zero-derivation like

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