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Ideas for deriving verbs from nouns

From:Amanda Babcock <langs@...>
Date:Wednesday, April 25, 2001, 20:49
Hello, longtime lurker here, asking for pointers to helpful examples...

Recently I thought I'd clean up my old conlang sketches.  The plan was to
take the phonology sketch from 3 years ago, the grammar sketch from two
years ago, the gender system I never used, an affix system inspired by
a conlang I ran across 6 years ago, the verb scheme from Rick Morneau's
Lexical Semantics paper... and throw them in a big pot together, simmer on
high for 6 weeks, voila, language, no more orphaned sketches!

Yeah, right :)

Instead I seem to have started inventing a completely new language, with, er,
none of the above as such.  Oops :)

Anyway, I'm getting stuck on deriving verbs from nouns.  A little background:
I've always been obsessed with the idea of a language where either all nouns
are derived from verbs, or where all verbs are derived from nouns.  I tried
the former in high school, quickly giving up because it seemed so unrealistic;
now I'm trying the latter.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be quite the problem that I'm finding it to be,
but I also got hung up on making it a trigger system.  I liked Kristian
Jensen's theory that essentially, trigger languages nominalize verbs, as
quoted in, so
I thought I'd use a trigger system.

Therein lies the rub.  I suspect that my problem is that I'm trying to
verbify nouns in the lexicon, and nominalize verbs in the grammar, and
tripping over myself coming and going.

For example, one of the nouns I've made is "gift".  I figured I could make
a verb out of it that, depending on which role the trigger is in, would
mean "give", "receive", "be given" etc.

However, upon further reflection, I can't justify to myself why the noun
should be "gift" and not "giver", "recipient" or one of the other roles.
Or "giving", in which case I'd seriously have to consider whether I'm
inventing nouns at all or just verbs whose infinitives can be used as nouns.
The trigger system invites me to consider all the arguments of the verb as
equally valid, but I do plan to derive new nouns from the verb derived from
the core noun, so I have to pick one to be the root and derive the others.
Figuring out which one to use is the problem.

In English, it seems like in verbs with a focus role, the focus exemplifies
the verb more than any of the other roles do.  Is this true of other
languages?  Is it a reasonable way to go about things?

Finally, can anybody suggest pointers with examples (conlang or natlang)
on various systems of deriving verbs from nouns?  Or languages where there
is no distinction between nouns and verbs, but the core words are more
nounlike than verblike (unlike Lojban, where gismu feel more like verbs
than nouns to me).  There are a lot of conlangs out there, and if someone's
already done this I'd love to look at their work :)  I think I just need to
break through a conceptual barrier here.



John Cowan <jcowan@...>
jesse stephen bangs <jaspax@...>
Tom Tadfor Little <tom@...>Hello
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Fabian <lajzar@...>