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Conversion as a Morphological Device

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Date Submitted:
09/22/2010 09:36 AM
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The conversion of verbs into substantives is less productive than that of substantives

into verbs. Some formations of this type are confined to the familiar, vulgar and

idiolectic speech, or to specified verbal constructions, while they are rarely, if ever,

used in other syntactic functions, especially in that of the subject which represents,

from the semantic point of view, the most independent part of the sentence. Thus

constructions like have a smoke, take a dip, take a ride, give a dip, give a dig, give a try

are in common colloquial use, while the use of the substantives smoke (in the sense

of 'smoking'), ride, dip, dig, try, etc. is still comparatively rare. It is also interesting

to note that some of them do not occur without being accompanied by an article or

a qualifying/or quantifying/adjective, i.e. their morphological function as substantives

is, or must be, corroborated by the contextual words. Most of deverbal substantives,

however, have penetrated into all morphological and syntactical functions which

other nouns are capable to perform, cf. bathe, chat, drink, build, count, find, laugh,

lead, make, rise, run, say, show, smell, smile, start, stay, wash, wait, win, yield, and

many others. As regards the chief motive of this conversion, we have every reason

to believe that it is due to the speakers' need to impart the morphological oppositions

and syntagmatic relationships of substantives to the lexical meaning covered by

the verb in question. In this way new substantives with wider or else different

semantic boundaries than the old nouns come into existence. In such constructions

as take a ride, have a smoke, give another try the use of the verbal nouns makes their

sense more concrete and precise than the use of the simple verbs ride, smoke, and

try, which denote a continuum of actions devoid of any countability and plurality.

Many linguists are inclined to think that there are strong...
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