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Friday, November 18, 2011

Conversion: Nouns - Verbs

English usage avoids adding more syllables just to make your speech sound more impressive. Likewise, Americans made adverbs from adjectives, were in England that is not acceptable.... yet. It's got some logic, after all. As John (1:1) didn't say in the Words Awards: "In the beginning was the Sword, and the Sword was with God, and the Words were Good". 

But  readers react to this device in the uses (see those tree links -and quotes- below). 
Buckminster Fuller once said, "God is a verb."  He did not mean that literally, of course, but metaphorically. I think he was trying to say that love is action. He did NOT go on to use that noun as an actual verb, as in "I God you."
 3. Also, in the Wordsmith forum somebody put it clearly into words:
If you ask me "Why do people hate verbing nouns so much?" I've never figured this out. English has been doing it since at least the Middle English period (1100–1450). I observe that we had to talk about verbing nouns without using the noun verb as a verb?. Well, they can be also called by other names:  denominal verbs if, like me, we were so inclined. There are deadjectival verbs, too, and deverbal nouns.

To see some ESL implications about verbing visit ESL-philoxenia

Any rules? Keep it simple -do not waive them (unless the more exotic word actually adds meaning or emphasis). In that case of simplicity, verbing is always in a win-win situation. 
In short, quoting Gowers' Plain words (1948):
"New verbs are ordinarily formed in one of three ways . . .The first is the simple method of treating a noun as a verb; it is one of the beauties of our language that nouns can be so readily converted into adjectives or verbs. This was the origin, for instance of the verb _question. 

In our travels of discovery, we met Gloria Writes who made her duties about language matters issuing this issue:  Double Duties: Conversion from Nouns to Verbs
Conversion, or zero-derivation (derivation with zero affix), is a functional shift by which one word form is generated from another without change in form.  The object of her paper is to investigate how English nouns convert to verbs, how the converted verbs, namely denominal verbs, are used and interpreted, and some constraints of such method of word -forming.
It is a notable characteristic in English lexicon that there is a great deal of homonymy between nouns and verbs. In many cases, the two appear to be just homographs and homophones, as in  matter (n.) / (v.), object (v.) / (n.), fly (v.) / (n.) 
 In other cases in which conversion is obvious, e.g., call (n.)/call (v.) and (n.) / paint (v.), again it is not easy to determine which is the earlier form. But there paint are also many cases in which one is semantically more basic than the other, e.g., box (n.) is more basic than box (v.), and bottle (n.) is more basic than bottle (v.).
Some verbs with the same forms of their counterpart nouns have been well established as verbs.  She has re-created a list of criteria with examples:
·        1) Obvious meanings. Let’s use the names of body parts as examples. These parts are obvious nouns, but can be converted to verbs. You can head (14c) a department, eye (15c) the game schedule, or nose (ca. 1577) a car around a bend on campus. You can shoulder (14c) a blame from the coach, elbow (1605) your way through a crowd, hand (15c) in a paper, knuckle (ca. 1864) down to a task , thumb (1644) a ride to class, back (1548) into the room, foot (15c) the tuition bill,  and toe (1607) a football.
·        2) Order of years the words showed in the dictionary: In Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, a name of year is enclosed in parentheses for each entry. For example, call as a verb was recorded in 12th century (12c.), while call as a noun was recorded in the 14th century (14c.), therefore we may assume that the noun call is a converted form of the verb call.
·        3) The semantic range: a converted word only assumes one, or a part of the range of meanings of the base word, e.g., the noun hand (12c) has more than twenty definitions, yet the verb hand (15c) has only five definitions. We amy claim that the verb hand is a denominal verb converted from the noun hand.
·         4) Inflection: If the verb in a pair of homo can be inflected, the noun is converted from the verb. For example: in the pair of bite (v.) (bef. 12c)/ bite (n.) (bef. 12c),  the verb bite can be inflected to bit, bitten; drink (v.) (bef. 12c)/drink (n.) (bef. 12c), the verb drink can be inflected to  drink, drank, drunk. We may conclude that the noun bite is converted from the verb    bite, and the noun drink from the verb drinkTherefore we may claim that both “bite” and “drink” are nouns converted from verbs
5) Phonetical shift: Based on the corpus, we may conclude that the denominal verbs retain the stress pattern of the underlying noun, while deverbal nominalization may involve stress shift. If the noun is distinguished from the verb by stress, e.g., pro.duce’(v.) (15c)/pro’.duce (n.) (1695), and (v.) (15c)/ per’.mit (n.) (1682), it must be considered a derivative from the verb,
Language evolves and words expand ceaselessly. Conversion is a on-going process. Cases of noun-to-verb conversion occurred since early Middle English. The following are some examples:
·        conversion from common nouns: belt (1300); mirror (1410); garden (1577)
·        conversion proper nouns: shanghai (1871, from the name of a city in China, Shanghai, meaning to secure sailors for voyages), boycott (1897, from an English land agent in Ireland, Charles Boycott, who was ostracized for refusing to reduce rents); Xerox (20c.). Google (2006) 
·        compound nouns: broadside (1646); watermark (1866); input (1946)
·        Shortened forms: FAX (1948), X-ray (1896), e-mail (20c.)
·        Acronyms: IM (20-21 c., instant message), MIDI (20c.), MSN (21c.)
·        The inflections of the denominal verbs follow the rules of  regular verbs. The following are some examples:
a. skin (1547): skin/skinned/skinning/ skins:  I fell and skinned my knees.
b. panic (1827): panic/panicked/panicking’panics
The radio drama was so realistic that it panicked listeners who turned in after it had begun.
c. knife (1865): knife/ knifed/knifing/knifes: The little boat knifed through the wave.
d. leaf (1611): leaf/leafed/leafing/leafs (note: so it is not mixed with the verb “to leave”)
e. spy (13c): spy/spied/spying/spies 
Gloria has re-create a more complete (vs. Quirk’s)  and well-organized (vs. Clarks) list of categories with three examples for each:
  1. to act as the noun to an object or in a situation:
a. to host a party (15c):  to receive or entertain socially
b. to umpire a match (1592): to supervise or decide as umpire
c. to parent teenagers (1663): to be or act as a parent of
  1. to put the noun in/on, add the noun to:
a. to butter the bread (15c): to spread with or as if with butter
b. to water the flowers (before 12c.): to moisten, to soak, or to sprinkle with water
c. to oil the machine (15c): to smear, rub over, furnish, or lubricate with oil
  1. to remove the noun from: In this form, the base noun (e.g., peel) of the denominal verb (to peel) is generally a proper part of the whole object (the orange), and there is a certain way to remove this part (e.g., with a knife or fingers). The following are some examples:
a. to peel an orange (14c) to strip of an outer layer of
b. to weed the lawn (12c) : to remove weeds or something harmful
c. to milk the cow (before 12c): to draw milk from the breast or udder
  1. to turn the object into the noun:
a. to cripple a person (1607): to deprive of the use of a limb and esp. a leg
b. to film the story (1945): to make a motion picture of
c. to orphan (1814): to cause to become an orphan
  1. to use noun as an instrument:
a. to hammer the nails (14c): to strike blows esp. repeatedly with or as if with a hammer
b. to staple the paper (14c): to provide with or secure with staples
c. to rake the leaves (13c): to gather, loosen, or smooth with or as if with a rake
  1. to put into the noun:
a. to bottle some wine (1622): to put into a bottle
b. to box your lunch (15c): to enclose in or as if in a box
c. to schedule my trip (1862): to place in a schedule
  1. to spend the duration of the noun:
a. to summer in Paris (15c): to pass the summer
b. to winter in Aspen (14c): to pass the winter
c. to vacation in Hawaii (1896): to take or spend a vacation
  1. to have activities at the noun:
a. to campaign (1701): to go on, engage in, or conduct a campaign
b. to party (1919): to attend or give parties
c. to camp (1543): 1. to make a camp or occupy a camp; 2. to live temporarily in a camp or ourdoors
  1. to use metaphorically: Metaphors are analogical processes which rely on the context for their interpretation depending on the change of environment in which the word is embedded. The following are some examples:
a. to chicken out (1943): to lose one’s nerve
b. to horse around (before 12c): to move by brute force
c. to butterfly shrimps (1954): to split almost entirely and spread apart so the object looks like a butterfly
IV. Grammatical Characteristics of Denominal Verbs.  Noun-to-verb conversion may seem trendy, especially in the technology community,  but is it not a new phenomenon.
·        Some verbs have more than one meaning. For example:  to stone (13c): 1. to hurl stones at, esp. to kill by pelting with stones // 2. to move the stones or seeds of (a fruit)
·        Some verbs even carry opposite meanings, e.g., to dust (1530): 1. to make free of dust, e.g.,  to dust the furniture //  2. to sprinkle with fine particles, e.g., to dust the cake with    confection  sugar 
·        Some verbs can be play more than one role, i.e., fit in more than one of the categories listed in part IV of this paper,  e.g., to garden (1577): 1. to lay out or work in a garden (category 8)  // 2. to make into a garden/ to ornament with a garden (category 2) 
·        Some verbs retain the full force of the corresponding noun, others compromise it in one way or another. For example:  to dog (1519): 1. to hunt or track like a like a hound  //  2. to worry as if by pursuit with dogs //  3. to fasten with a dog  //  4. to fail to do one’s best
·        The converted verbs can be either transitive or intransitive. For example: to fish (before 12c):
  1. intransitive: to attempt to catch fish/ to seek something by round-about means, e.g., She is fishing around her purse for her car key.
  2. transitive: to try to fish in (the river)/ to go fishing for (salmon)/ to draw or pull as if fishing, e.g., He fished the ball from under the car

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