LINGUIST List 10.142

Fri Jan 29 1999

Disc: Adjective to Verb

Editor for this issue: Jody Huellmantel <>


  1. mcintyre, Adj to Verb

Message 1: Adj to Verb

Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999 10:23:35 +0000
From: mcintyre <>
Subject: Adj to Verb

Dear Linguists,

re Mike Maxwell's remarks on conversion (LINGUIST 10-84), it is worth
noting a tendency in a few languages whereby A>V conversion (whether
it is categorial relabelling, zero affixation or redundancy rule pairs
in the lexicon (Lieber 1981) or something else) is only productive
when the verb thus formed is embedded in a morphologically(?) complex
verb. Relevant here are not cases of standard category-changing
affixation (suffixation in Germanic languages, e.g. in 'whiten',
'banalise') where in a phenomenon different from conversion, an affix
appears in the cannonical head position, determining syntactic
category, hosting inflectional endings, and determing inflectional
class in languages like Gothic with no default class. I am referring
rather e.g. to German verb stems like 'auf-heiter-' (UP-CHEER='cheer
up'), 'ein-schchter-' (IN-SHY='intimidate'), 'abstumpf-'
(OFF-BLUNT='make blunt'). 
German has scores of similar structures, consisting of a preverb,
often a verb particle which can be separated in the syntax, and a
deadjectival verb. It would be perhaps legitimate to claim that these
are normal conversions which must occur with a particle, except that
not only are the putative converted stems non-existent in many cases,
but they are also ill-formed inasmuch as A>V conversion is
unproductive in modern German. It was productive in the past (A>V is
thus not universally excluded). German has quite a few (often
marginal) relics ('runden' ='round off') which could have served as a
pattern for new coinings, but do not. There is now a very strong
tendency for A>V to occur with preverbs. (For what it's worth, in ms.,
I argue that in the above German particle verb type, the particle has
to be involved in the category changing process in some way in order
to license the conversion and is therefore added at a morphological
According to Stiebels (1996:216f), citing A.-M. Di Sciullo and
E. Klipple, a similar tendency against simplex A>V conversion and in
favour of deadjectival verbs with preverbs exists in Romance languages
and Hungarian as well as German and English (cf. embitter,
enrich). All this raises the question as to why preverbs (which, I
argue in ms., are undoubtedly prepositional elements and not verbal
heads in the German examples) are so good at rescuing deadjectival
conversions? A tentative answer would be that prefixes and particles
tend to have aspectual properties which could help to disambiguate the
adjective between an inchoative and a durative reading. Thus, '*she
wised' could mean that she became wise or was wise, hence: 'she wised
up' (where the particle has dynamic semantics only compatible with the
inchoative reading). This answer does not work in other cases: '*she
blonded' is to my feeling unambiguously inchoative but is still
bad. This explanation would also rule out N>V conversions which do/can
exist (' waitered' 'was/*became a waiter'). I would be grateful for
insights or literature on the matter.

Refs: LIEBER,R, (1981): Morphological Conversion within a Restrictive
Theory of the Lexicon In: Moortgat, M. et. al, The Scope of Lexical
Rules. Dordrecht. McINTYRE, A., Particle Verbs and
Morphology. Ms. Univsity of Leipzig. STIEBELS, B.(1996). Lexikalische
Argumente und Adjunkte. Berlin.

Dr Andrew McIntyre
particle verb project homepage:

Shakespearestr. 3
04107 Leipzig
Tel (home) 0341-983 0602 (from Australia:001149-341 983 0602)
Tel (work) 0341-9737 328 (from Australia:001149-341 9 7373 28)
Fax 0341-9737 329
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