Nominalization refers both to the process by which complex nouns are created and to the complex nouns that are derived by that process. Nominalizations common in the languages of the world include event/result nouns, personal or participant nouns (agent, patient, location, etc.), as well as collectives and abstracts. It is common for nominalizations to be highly polysemous. Theoretical issues concerning nominalization typically stem from the question of how to account for this pervasive polysemy. Within generative grammar, both syntactic and lexicalist approaches have been proposed. The issue of polysemy in nominalization has also been of interest within cognitive and functional frameworks. The article considers, finally, the extent to which nominalization is subject to competition and blocking.
Nominalization: General Overview and Theoretical Issues
Classical Generative Morphology
Pius ten Hacken
The scope of classical generative morphology is not clearly determined. All three components need clarification. The boundaries of what counts as generative linguistics are not unambiguously set, but it can be assumed that all generative work in linguistics is inspired by the work of Noam Chomsky. Morphology was a much more prominent component of linguistic theory in earlier approaches, but of course the subject field had to be accounted for also in generative linguistics. The label classical can be seen as restricting the scope both to the more mainstream approaches and to a period that ends before the present. Here, the early 1990s will be taken as the time when classical theorizing gave way to contemporary generative morphology. In the earliest presentations of generative linguistics, there was no lexicon. The introduction of the lexicon made many of the ideas formulated before obsolete. Chomsky’s Lexicalist Hypothesis provided the basis for a new start of research in morphology. Two contrasting elaborations appeared in the early 1970s. Halle proposed a model based on the combination of morphemes, Jackendoff one based on the representation and analysis of full words. Against this background, a number of characteristic issues were discussed in the 1970s and 1980s. One such issue was the form of rules. Here there was a shift from transformations to rewrite rules. This shift can be seen particularly well in the discussion of verbal compounds, e.g., truck driver. The question whether and how morphology should be distinguished from syntax generated a lot of discussion. Another broad question was the degree to which rules of morphology should be thought of as operating in separate components. This can be observed in the issue of the distinction of inflection and derivation and in level ordering. The latter was a proposal to divide affixes into classes with different phonological and other effects on the base they attach to. A side effect of level ordering was the appearance of bracketing paradoxes, where, for instance, generative grammarian has a phonological constituent grammarian but a semantic constituent generative grammar. Another aspect of rule application which can be constructed as a difference between morphology and syntax is productivity. In general, syntactic rules are more productive and morphological rules display blocking effects, where, for instance, unpossible is blocked by the existence of impossible. Being classical, much of the discussions in this period serves as a shared background for the emergence and discussion of current generative approaches in morphology. The transition to these theories started in the 1990s, although some of them appeared only in the early 2000s.
Blocking can be defined as the non-occurrence of some linguistic form, whose existence could be expected on general grounds, due to the existence of a rival form. *Oxes, for example, is blocked by oxen, *stealer by thief. Although blocking is closely associated with morphology, in reality the competing “forms” can not only be morphemes or words, but can also be syntactic units. In German, for example, the compound Rotwein ‘red wine’ blocks the phrasal unit *roter Wein (in the relevant sense), just as the phrasal unit rote Rübe ‘beetroot; lit. red beet’ blocks the compound *Rotrübe. In these examples, one crucial factor determining blocking is synonymy; speakers apparently have a deep-rooted presumption against synonyms. Whether homonymy can also lead to a similar avoidance strategy, is still controversial. But even if homonymy blocking exists, it certainly is much less systematic than synonymy blocking. In all the examples mentioned above, it is a word stored in the mental lexicon that blocks a rival formation. However, besides such cases of lexical blocking, one can observe blocking among productive patterns. Dutch has three suffixes for deriving agent nouns from verbal bases, -er, -der, and -aar. Of these three suffixes, the first one is the default choice, while -der and -aar are chosen in very specific phonological environments: as Geert Booij describes in The Morphology of Dutch (2002), “the suffix -aar occurs after stems ending in a coronal sonorant consonant preceded by schwa, and -der occurs after stems ending in /r/” (p. 122). Contrary to lexical blocking, the effect of this kind of pattern blocking does not depend on words stored in the mental lexicon and their token frequency but on abstract features (in the case at hand, phonological features). Blocking was first recognized by the Indian grammarian Pāṇini in the 5th or 4th century bc, when he stated that of two competing rules, the more restricted one had precedence. In the 1960s, this insight was revived by generative grammarians under the name “Elsewhere Principle,” which is still used in several grammatical theories (Distributed Morphology and Paradigm Function Morphology, among others). Alternatively, other theories, which go back to the German linguist Hermann Paul, have tackled the phenomenon on the basis of the mental lexicon. The great advantage of this latter approach is that it can account, in a natural way, for the crucial role played by frequency. Frequency is also crucial in the most promising theory, so-called statistical pre-emption, of how blocking can be learned.
Derivational morphology is a type of word formation that creates new lexemes, either by changing syntactic category or by adding substantial new meaning (or both) to a free or bound base. Derivation may be contrasted with inflection on the one hand or with compounding on the other. The distinctions between derivation and inflection and between derivation and compounding, however, are not always clear-cut. New words may be derived by a variety of formal means including affixation, reduplication, internal modification of various sorts, subtraction, and conversion. Affixation is best attested cross-linguistically, especially prefixation and suffixation. Reduplication is also widely found, with various internal changes like ablaut and root and pattern derivation less common. Derived words may fit into a number of semantic categories. For nouns, event and result, personal and participant, collective and abstract noun are frequent. For verbs, causative and applicative categories are well-attested, as are relational and qualitative derivations for adjectives. Languages frequently also have ways of deriving negatives, relational words, and evaluatives. Most languages have derivation of some sort, although there are languages that rely more heavily on compounding than on derivation to build their lexical stock. A number of topics have dominated the theoretical literature on derivation, including productivity (the extent to which new words can be created with a given affix or morphological process), the principles that determine the ordering of affixes, and the place of derivational morphology with respect to other components of the grammar. The study of derivation has also been important in a number of psycholinguistic debates concerning the perception and production of language.
Psycholinguistic Research on Inflectional Morphology in the Romance Languages
Claudia Marzi and Vito Pirrelli
Over the past decades, psycholinguistic aspects of word processing have made a considerable impact on views of language theory and language architecture. In the quest for the principles governing the ways human speakers perceive, store, access, and produce words, inflection issues have provided a challenging realm of scientific inquiry, and a battlefield for radically opposing views. It is somewhat ironic that some of the most influential cognitive models of inflection have long been based on evidence from an inflectionally impoverished language like English, where the notions of inflectional regularity, (de)composability, predictability, phonological complexity, and default productivity appear to be mutually implied. An analysis of more “complex” inflection systems such as those of Romance languages shows that this mutual implication is not a universal property of inflection, but a contingency of poorly contrastive, nearly isolating inflection systems. Far from presenting minor faults in a solid, theoretical edifice, Romance evidence appears to call into question the subdivision of labor between rules and exceptions, the on-line processing vs. long-term memory dichotomy, and the distinction between morphological processes and lexical representations. A dynamic, learning-based view of inflection is more compatible with this data, whereby morphological structure is an emergent property of the ways inflected forms are processed and stored, grounded in universal principles of lexical self-organization and their neuro-functional correlates.