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LINGUIST List 20.2003

Thu May 28 2009

Diss: Morphology/Semantics/Text/Corpus Ling: Gottfurcht: 'Denominal...'

Editor for this issue: Di Wdzenczny <wdzenczgmail.com>

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        1.    Carolyn Gottfurcht, Denominal Verb Formation in English

Message 1: Denominal Verb Formation in English
Date: 28-May-2009
From: Carolyn Gottfurcht <carolynzafrahotmail.com>
Subject: Denominal Verb Formation in English
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Institution: Northwestern University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2008

Author: Carolyn Anne Gottfurcht

Dissertation Title: Denominal Verb Formation in English

Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
                            Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director:
Edith Moravcsik
Janet B Pierrehumbert

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation explores the factors that influence the creation and
interpretation of novel denominal verbs in English. Of particular focus is
the potential influence of one factor, termed here the Semantic Category
Distribution Effect. The Semantic Category Distribution Effect involves the
type frequency distribution of existing forms of a given denominal verb
formation process (e.g. conversion, -ize, -ify, -ate) across semantic
impact of this distribution upon the probability of application of that
process upon a novel verb. The central hypothesis of this dissertation is
that native English speakers are sensitive to and make use of this kind of
type frequency distribution information when creating or interpreting novel
denominal verbs.

To provide evidence in support of this hypothesis, a corpus study was
conducted to identify all verbs in the Oxford English Dictionary Online
that were unambiguously derived from nouns. The results of this study were
then compared to the results of two experimental tasks, which asked
subjects to provide novel denominal verbs consistent with given scenarios
of varying semantics. The results of both types of studies show that each
of the English denominal verb formation processes is possible for each of
the semantic categories, suggesting that all processes cover the same
semantic domain, and therefore that all processes share the same underlying
semantic structure. However, the results also show that the processes are
not equally distributed in terms of type frequency among the semantic
categories, and that the semantic category distributions of the newly
created forms are positively correlated with the semantic category
distributions of the existing forms, providing evidence of the Semantic
Category Distribution Effect. Lastly, analyses of both the corpus study and
experimental data indicate that the nature of the interaction between
processes is characterized by constant competition.

Taken together, the findings here suggest that distributional frequency
information plays an important role in native speaker competence in
denominal verb formation, and is further suggestive of a model of the
mental lexicon that is quite dynamic and interactive.

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