LINGUIST List 8.1595

Thu Nov 6 1997

Sum: Relational Nouns

Editor for this issue: Elaine Halleck <>


  1. Christopher Johnson, relational nouns

Message 1: relational nouns

Date: Wed, 5 Nov 1997 16:54:52 -0800 (PST)
From: Christopher Johnson <crjICSI.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: relational nouns

A while back I posted the following query:

>It seems that nouns whose meanings involve relations (in the broadest
>sense, including events, etc.) can be divided into two classes. One
>class consists of nouns denoting one of the arguments of a relation,
>such as MOTHER, NEIGHBOR, SPEAKER, etc. The other class consists of
>nouns denoting relations themselves, such as CONVERSATION, REACTION,
>RELATIONSHIP, etc. This distinction seems relevant to the syntactic
>behavior of the nouns in question, especially with respect to support

I received three responses. I am very grateful to John E. Koontz, Tore
Nesset, and Ewald Lang for sending them.

John E. Koontz pointed out that some Siouan languages have kinships
nouns which seem to be in some sense reciprocals, and that Marianne
Mithun reports something similar about Tuscarora in her dissertation.

Tore Nesset informed me of the traditional distinction between "nomen
agentis" and "nomen actio," and suggested checking out the work of
Ronald Langacker.

Ewald Lang wrote that the division I mentioned corresponds partly to
that between lexical primary and derivation, and referred me to Jane
Grimshaw`s recent work.

On re-reading parts of Argument Structure (Grimshaw 1990, MIT Press),
I found what I was looking for: Grimshaw distinguishes between nouns
whose external arguments, i.e. referents, are identical to one of
their lcs arguments (e.g. decision, conclusion), and those whose
external arguments are not (e.g. attempt, knowledge) (see pp. 98-101).

Once again, thanks to those who responded.

-Chris Johnson

Christopher Johnson
FrameNet Project
International Computer Science Institute
and University of California, Berkeley
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