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Linguistic term for ease of changing word-class (was: 'out-' affix in conlangs?)

From:Eldin Raigmore <eldin_raigmore@...>
Date:Saturday, August 9, 2008, 16:45
On Fri, 8 Aug 2008 17:23:19 -0400, Alex Fink <000024@...> wrote:
>On Fri, 8 Aug 2008 12:58:47 +0200, Henrik Theiling <theiling@...> >wrote: >[snip] >On Fri, 8 Aug 2008 20:14:05 +0200, M. Czapp <0zu149@...> wrote: >>*HIJACK: Is there a better linguistic term for the ease with which you can >>change whether a word is a noun, adjective or a verb? The best example for >>weak typing (easy/implicite changes) might be Esperanto, German is of the >>languages I know the one with the most problematic 'typecasts. > >Talk of casting tends to make me leery, for the way it seems to make the >background assumption that given any two data types there should be >exactly one function between them of such paramouncy that it makes sense >to elevate it above all others and crown it the Cast between those two >types.
I don't agree, but you might be right and/or I might be wrong.
>For some type-pairs I buy this (smaller to larger floating point types, say); >mostly not.
Linguistically I think of those as "castes" or as "types", not as "casts". I refer to the affixes (or other operations) which change part-of-speech as "typecasting" affixes or operations; in programming I refer to a function whose purpose is to change data-type as a "typecasting" function.
>This seems as much to be true of lexical categories as computerish data >types. So in Esperanto the "casts" to adjectives are in fact ambiguous >between roughly "pertaining to X" and "having lots of X" or perhaps other >things yet: _suna_ 'solar' or 'sunny'; _denta_ 'dental' or 'toothy'. Not >to mention the whole _broso_ vs. _kombo, kombilo_ thing ('brush'; 'act of >combing', 'comb'). Basically, you simply need to specify more for a >derivational operation than e.g. "converts nouns to verbs".
Yes. In strongly-typed computer languages there is frequently an operation with no other function than to change the data-type. In natlangs, though, there are usually several nouns pertaining to each verb, so several ways of nominalizing it (action nominalization, agent nominalization, patient nominalization, location nominalization, time nominalization). There are frequently also more than one ways to adjectivize it (passive participle, active participle, maybe realis vs irrealis participle, maybe past vs future vs present participle, etc.) And there may be several verbs associated with a given noun, too; to use an N on, to change into an N, to treat as if it were an N, to give an N to, to take an N from, .... Similarly, probably, for most productive operations that can change one part- of-speech into another. (The resulting word-class is always an open one, and usually a large one; the starting word-class is also usually a large, open class. Other than that the only limit seems to be there is frequently only one way to change an adjective into an adverb (if the language has both as large open word-classes and they are different parts-of-speech) and may be no way to change an adverb into some one or another of the other word-classes.) All such operations are likelier to be "derivations" than "inflections", because one of the differences between "derivation" and "inflection" is that "inflection" usually leaves the word in the same class while "derivation" frequently does not.
>Anyway, to get back to your original question, I don't know of any such >terminology pertaining to changing word class in particular. One could just >talk of the general propensity for derivation -- some langs might be rich in >productive derivational morphology, others poor.
Right; you are concerned with the existence of highly-productive word-class- changing derivations. If there are some, "ease of changing part-of-speech" is high; if there are none, or not enough of them, or they aren't very productive after all (say, for instance, some of them apply to only a minority of some part- of-speech), then "ease of changing part-of-speech" is low. If there's a term for this I don't remember ever hearing or seeing it.
>At the extreme, I suppose, you might have a language where one of these >categories (e.g. verbs, or adjectives, I think I've read of cases of both) >is a _closed class_, i.e. you can simply never make any more of them, >whether by derivation or borrowing or some other means.
Aren't there languages with "adjectives are a small closed class"? Aren't there languages with "verbs are a small closed class"? (Mostly in such languages the "small closed class" is the "light verbs", and most of what would be a verb in another language is a phrasal verb consisting of a "light verb" plus a "content word".) I know there are languages with no class of adverbs distinct from their class of adjectives; but aren't many "semantic cases" (that is, cases other than "syntactic cases", that show something other than the "grammatical relations" of Subject, Object, or Indirect Object) also "adverbial cases"? Isn't a noun in a case other than Nominative, Accusative, Dative, or Genitive, essentially an adverb? So, the "changing of a noun into an adverb" is likely to be fairly "easy" -- highly productive -- in most languages with a robust case system, right? And Genitive, in those languages that have one, is essentially a way of changing a noun into an adjective, isn't it? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - I'd think you'd want to take each pair of large open word-classes and ask whether there is a derivation method that applies to almost every word in the first one to produce a word in the second one. Noun --> Verb Verb --> Noun - - - - - - - - - - - Verb --> Adjective Noun --> Adjective Adjective --> Verb Adjective --> Noun - - - - - - - - - - - Adjective --> Adverb Noun --> Adverb Verb --> Adverb Adverb --> Verb Adverb --> Noun Adverb --> Adjective