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Noun/Verb distinction (was Re: Keeping Track of Ambiguity in your Conlang?)

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Sunday, September 1, 2002, 12:30
Pavel Iosad writes:
 > Hello,
 > > On Aug/31/2002, Roger Mills wrote:
 > >
 > > > Actually this is a quite productive means of producing
 > > Engl. verbs from
 > > > nouns (and probably the despair of foreign learners)--
 > >
 > >         Do you mean that verbs and nouns are different things in
 > > english? Really? :-? };-)
 > >
 > >         It's always fun to me that you can "cd into a directory",
 > > "bulldozer a house" and "cash in" :-) The whole concept makes
 > > for a good
 > > conlang without nouns, having only verbs :-m :-)
 > Um, I may be wrong here, but what I've learned is that this is called
 > conversion and is essentially derivation by means of phonologically
 > empty suffixes.

I agree with you.  There're certainly a large number of nouns which
can be used as verbs and and vice-versa without any change in form,
but it's not predictable unless you're familiar with the underlying
semantic classes of the words, of which English speakers are generally
only implicitly aware.  Consider comb - break - kick - dust.

It's generally agreed that all languages make some distinction between
noun and verb roots, although some make more than others.  I've been
trying to read a paper which claims that Philippine languages actually
have "precategorial" roots.  It's an interesting argument, but too
much goes over my head for me to say whether I agree with it.

I think I'll make a seperate post asking for definitions of certain
terms used in that.