LINGUIST List 11.1953

Sat Sep 16 2000

Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Larry, Re: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages: territory and maps
  2. Nitti45, Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages
  3. klaus schmirler, Re: 11.1947, Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Message 1: Re: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages: territory and maps

Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 09:37:20 +0900
From: Larry <>
Subject: Re: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages: territory and maps

Message by Kenneth Allen Hyde <kennyUDel.Edu>
dated Thu, 14 Sep 2000 00:29:59 -0400 (EDT)

> I think that we are deceived by our metalanguage into thinking that there
> is some abstract and ideal distinction between nouns and verbs (or other
> parts of speech).
> "Noun" is a metalinguistic term which is useful when talking about
> languages. This doesn't mean that nouns don't exist, just that we have to
> recognize that their only reality is of our own making (and is arbitrary).


it seems to me here is the place and now the time for a little anecdote... :-)

20 years ago, I, a native speaker of an IE language yet unexposed to formal
linguistics, wrote a term paper with the title "Is "god" an adjective?".
That essay is my personal milestone 0 in the process of clarifying the
consequences of the common confusion between territory and map. Not long
after I realised that I was not "pursuing happiness" but instead wanted
(and want) to live happily.

Now I live in Japan and find that termini technicae like "noun", verb" and
"adjective" make less and less sense as my understanding of the language
progresses. Indeed, I am creating a new map as I explore new territory.


When reading the arguments put forward by Moonhawk and Larry Trask I see,
without feeling compelled to take sides (how many are there anyway?), a
distinctly different perception, on part of the partner-opponents (Jap.:
"aite"), of what constitutes "territory" and what "map". No wonder that
never the twain are meeting...

If we become firmly mindful of the fact that what we are *usually* talking
about are the maps of our own making, then we could perhaps live with more
(to) play and less (to) fight.

Regards: Larry (another Larry, and just Larry)

Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 00:40:33 EDT
From: Nitti45 <>
Subject: Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Dear Linguist:
 I have been following what might aptly be called the "nominality pros and 
cons" discussion with great interest from its outset. I do not intend to go 
into great detail in this posting; rather, I should like to insert some brief 
observations and a question.
 Allow me to preface my remarks by stating that my background predisposes 
me to think in terms of nominality, inasmuch as the languages that I have 
studied are indeed quite "nouny," so to speak. That said, I must hasten to 
add that I have found Moonhawk's anti-nominality position, and his various 
expositions thereof, most fascinating, particularly in the context of the 
current discussion; the broadening of perspective that this has afforded me 
is, to my mind, most edifying. This is not to suggest that I am now 
abandoning my Western way of viewing the world on the strength of my having 
read, and digested, these postings; far from it. However, I think that I can 
now resolve a question regarding such "verby" languages as Moonhawk mentions w
hich has heretofore stumped me.
 For a long time, whenever this anti-nominality issue arose, there was one 
point at which I would find myself completely stopped. (The fact of my not 
knowing any of these languages certainly didn't help, either!) I found 
myself asking, "How can a language *not* nominalize? After all, doesn't 
*action* presuppose a thing that *acts*? Doesn't *being* presuppose a thing 
that *exists*?" But now I think I get the idea, namely that this is a 
question of *prioritizing* and not an "all-or-nothing" issue. In other 
words, in these "non-nouny" languages under discussion, the *name* of an 
entity is not considered as important as its *attributes,* e.g., what it 
does; how it looks, sounds, smells, tastes and/or feels; its relationship to 
the rest of nature; these are just a few possibilities that come readily to 
my mind.
 I should like to direct my question to Moonhawk in particular, though not 
to the exclusion of any and every other individual who may have an answer. 
The question is: Is the idea expressed in the latter half of the preceding 
paragraph a reasonably accurate summary of the anti-nominality position being 
offered here?
 Cordially yours,

 Richard S. Kaminski
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Re: 11.1947, Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 14:39:39 +0200
From: klaus schmirler <>
Subject: Re: 11.1947, Disc: Linguistics & Nominalising Languages

Dear Linguists,
I am a lurker on this list who is not professionally involved in
linguistics, and I hope throwing in my 2 cents won't get me thrown off
Focussing on the mere existence of certain parts of speech has not
seemed to be very productive in distinguishing nominalising from
non-nominalising languages, since all languages apparently allow for
transformations of verbs into nouns and vice versa and have some nouns
and verbs that exist without counterparts in the other category: There
is certainly no clear-cut boundary between nominalising and
My intuition about my own use of nominalisations or verb-noun
periphrasis as opposed to simple verbs (and the choice between active
and passive, for that matter) is guided mainly by the attempt to
maintain a coherent theme/rheme structure in discourse, and this is
where the -- in my opinion -- more important question of anaphora comes
in. Since pronouns are pro-nouns, I need nominalisations to refer back
to something, even if this some... has been a process, a property, or an
action. In some languages, this needs rather clumsy constructions:

	What you just said ... 	(content)

	The fact that you just said ... (act)

German, where I can omit "the fact", would then be a less nominalising
language than English. However, I can imagine that something like "your
saying/doing" or even a single verb form amounting to "you having
recently said something" are possible (especially in languages that mark
the reality status in more detail than just indicative-conditional [Or
is the distinction between experience and hearsay a different animal
So, before even thinking about the question of how grammar influences
the mind set, I would like to know if there are any languages that
"pro-verbs" along with or instead of pro-nouns?


Klaus Schmirler
Wilhelmst. 6		D-72135 Dettenhausen
ph&f +49 7157 523906
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue