LINGUIST List 10.84

Tue Jan 19 1999

Disc: New: Adjective to Verb

Editor for this issue: Scott Fults <>


  1. Mike_Maxwell, New discussion: Adj to Verb

Message 1: New discussion: Adj to Verb

Date: Tue, 12 Jan 1999 11:19:47 -0500 (EST)
From: Mike_Maxwell <Mike_MaxwellSIL.ORG>
Subject: New discussion: Adj to Verb

I once had a non-native speaker of English tell me that "in English,
you can verb almost anything." I've noticed over the years many such
on-the-fly uses of nouns as verbs, but I don't recall running into any
new uses of adjectives as verbs. Then today I ran into the following
(in an Internet discussion of using the Microsoft Word program):

 In documents Newed from this template...
 [I] then tried a) attaching that template to existing documents,
 b) Newing a document from that template...

(The context is that in Word, if you create a document template with
certain properties, you can then create new documents having these
properties by clicking on a menu choice labeled "New".)

Now that I've seen such a usage, it strikes me as odd that Adj-->Verb
coinings are (apparently) rarer than Noun-->Verb coinings, since
adjectives are in some sense "between" nouns and verbs. (For
instance, in Chomsky's "Remarks on Nominalization" paper, nouns are
[+N -V], verbs are [-N +V], and adjectives are [+N +V]. Likewise, in
many languages adjective-like words are morphosyntactically nouns,
while in other languages they act like verbs.) One might therefore
think novel deadjectival verb usages would be more common, not less.

Mike Maxwell
Summer Institute of Linguistics
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