English: lexical derivation processes other than suffixation

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Majkel

New Member
Polski
Apart from endings, are there any rules to use when we build an adjective from a noun, a verb from a noun etc. ?
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    In general, we don't build adjectives from nouns or verbs from nouns. We adopt them wholesale:
    • An oak table = noun
    • Four table legs = adjective (does not modify)
    • To table a proposal = verb (does modify: a proposal was tabled...)
    But you're really supposed to give context in your questions on this website, so do you have a specific word in mind?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Apart from endings, are there any rules to use when we build an adjective from a noun, a verb from a noun etc. ?
    Welcome to the forum, Majkel. Your question is rather vast ... what kinds of rules are you thinking of?
    In general, we don't build adjectives from nouns or verbs from nouns. We adopt them wholesale:
    • An oak table = noun
    • Four table legs = adjective (does not modify)
    • To table a proposal = verb (does modify: a proposal was tabled...)
    (A table showing population distribution > Population distribution shown in tabular form > The information was incorrectly tabulated/tabularized:rolleyes:)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    (A table showing population distribution > Population distribution shown in tabular form > The information was incorrectly tabulated/tabularized:rolleyes:)
    "Table" and "tabular" eventually have the same root, but "tabular" is more directly from Latin than "table". The root word doesn't exactly mean "table" in Latin.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    No, but the unsuspecting might think it was, from the fact that the adjective form for (mathematical) table is tabular:) (In that respect it's actually a pretty good example: only someone with a weird imagination might think that cardiac is somehow 'derived from' heart.)
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    No, but the unsuspecting might think it was, from the fact that the adjective form for (mathematical) table is tabular:) (In that respect it's actually a pretty good example: only someone with a weird imagination might think that cardiac is somehow 'derived from' heart.)
    It doesn't answer the question, nor is it germane to Keith's point (heart -> heart medicine). You gave no explanation for your examples so I think from your post we should have "heartular" from "heart."
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    There are several possible ways to "build" adjectives from nouns.

    Sometimes a suffix is added to a noun to make it an adjective. -ly and -ish and -y and even, yes -ular are used:

    manly, friendly
    girlish, amateurish
    mouthy, bloody
    circular, cellular

    The rules, such as they are, for this have to do with the etymology of the word and the usage of the adjective version. It's not a type of generative rule usually, though some coinages do use the suffixes: you have a slang word that's a noun, and you can add -y or -ish to it probably and the adjective version would be also recognized as slang, so you might see "thottish" used in the wild by native speakers, for example. -ish can signify a language or culture, and -y can also be a diminutive, so it's dependent on the nature of the slang noun if -y would be interpreted as diminutive or culture/language term instead of adjectival, or something else.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Apart from endings, are there any rules to use when we build an adjective from a noun, a verb from a noun etc. ?
    Majkel's question seems to be the following:

    Does English have processes other than suffixation for lexical derivation?

    One big one already mentioned in this thread is zero derivation, whereby a new lexical category is derived with no changes whatsoever to the surface form of a word. English is remarkably flexible in this regard. Consider the following:

    verb to noun:
    I'm going for a run.
    That was the first take.
    It's a go!

    adjective to noun:
    He always has his tools at the ready.
    I want your dirty. (from "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga)
    I have a tattoo on the small of my back.

    noun to verb:
    I need to e-mail my friend.
    That's a nice place to shop.
    He's going to tailor my dress.

    adjective to verb:
    What can we do to better the situation?
    I really need to tidy up my room.
    This morning I cleaned the table.

    noun to adjective:
    He is a math teacher.
    I want to learn about the rain forest.
    He wrote me a love letter.

    verb to adjective:
    Where is the rest room?
    He's a member of a fight club.
    Do you have a jump rope?
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    verb to adjective:
    Where is the rest room?
    He's a member of a fight club.
    Do you have a jump rope?
    These seem to be classical examples of Germanic compound nouns with stress on the first component. I can't see how rest, fight and jump could be analysed as adjectives.

    Compare the stress pattern in
    Safe house ~ compound noun
    Safe house ~ adjective + noun
     
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    jimquk

    Member
    English
    noun to adjective:
    He is a math teacher.
    I want to learn about the rain forest.
    He wrote me a love letter.

    verb to adjective:
    Where is the rest room?
    He's a member of a fight club.
    Do you have a jump rope?
    These seem to be classical examples of Germanic compound nouns with stress on the first component. I can't see how rest, fight and jump could be analysed as adjectives.

    Compare the stress pattern in
    Safe house ~ compound noun
    Safe house ~ adjective + noun
    Indeed, and you could hardly say a *mather teacher, the *mathest teacher in the school.

    These all feel like nouns put together attributively.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    These are all analyzed as adjectives within the eight-parts-of-speech paradigm that is taught in schools -- which is quite distinct from formal syntactic analysis. Under the former analysis, words are classified according to their function within a sentence, and these words are all adjectives because they modify a noun and answer the question "what kind."
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    So number in number plate is an adjective or horse in horseradish? It is the general schema of the Germanic compound noun: The last component is the head noun and all the preceding components attribute the head noun. A number plate is a plate with/for numbers.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    "Number" in "number plate" is an adjective; "horseradish" is a single word so it's just a noun or adjective, depending on its function within the sentence ("I like horseradish" versus "horseradish flavor"). In this type of analysis, only words are accounted for, not parts of words. And again, it's all about the word's function within the sentence. "Number" in "number plate" tells us what kind of plate we're talking about, just like "red" in "red plate."

    This analysis even subsumes determiners under the category of adjectives. See this, for example (note, in particular, the examples at the bottom -- "a large, purple sleeping bag," "scary, squiggly solar flares," "lovely, cobalt, Canadian running shoes" -- where all the words except for the last word in each phrase are adjectives).
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In this type of analysis, only words are accounted for, not parts of words
    Basing linguistic analysis on the accidentalities of purely arbitrary orthographic conventions (horseradish=one word, number plate=two words) is not very convincing. This is another reason why I don't agree with this inflationary use of the concept of an adjective. But there are indeed respectable grammarians who advocate this analysis.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    The purpose of this analysis is to assign each word a role within the sentence, depending on its function. It makes a lot of sense to me. At the same time, I don't discount the merits of other types of analysis, which have their own purposes.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    In prescriptive grammar; maybe. There orthography is relevant.

    In descriptive grammar I see no convincing reason why horseradish should be analysed as one word but number plate as two words.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Orthography is prescriptive by definition, yes. But taking the orthography for granted and coming up with a system to group independent words according to their functions within sentences does not mean we are being prescriptive. I don't even think the labels prescriptive and descriptive apply here; it's simply a different type of analysis.

    The bottom line is that regardless of how the words "math" and "red" originated, in the phrases "math book" and "red apple," they have the same function, so it's certainly not preposterous to assign them the same label. Perhaps the use of the label "adjective" is distracting, since it's applied differently in formal syntax. Maybe something like "noun modifier" would be less controversial.

    Also, orthography does matter in terms of syntax:

    What kinds of cake did you make?
    Chocolate and vanilla.
    [= chocolate cake and vanilla cake]

    What kinds of cake did you make?

    */? Chocolate and cheese. [= chocolate cake and cheesecake]
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Also, orthography does matter in terms of syntax:

    What kinds of cake did you make?
    Chocolate and vanilla.
    [= chocolate cake and vanilla cake]

    What kinds of cake did you make?

    */? Chocolate and cheese. [= chocolate cake and cheesecake]
    Such contractions also exist in languages that spell them as one word (Schokolade- und Käsekuchen). The existence of such expressions does not prove that orthography matters for syntax.

    Horseradish and number plate share the same stress pattern while red plate has a different stress pattern. For a descriptive linguistic analysis I find this much more relevant than how they are spelled.
     

    Truffula

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    What about the words "cellular" or "solar" , berndf? Is it an adjective in your analysis style? You can have "cellular phones" (often abbreviated to "cell phones") or "solar panels" that have the stress pattern of "number plate" and there is no comparative (a phone can't be the most cellular or one panel more solar than another), but they are still words that are always adjectives, never nouns.

    They function very similarly to how "vanilla" functions as an adjective, and how "math" functions in "math teacher," and are not stand-alone nouns. English does have a few multi-word nouns (like "ice cream") where it is clear that the first part is not an adjective, but part of the noun. I think it's arguable that "rest room" is one of these (especially since it's often written as one word, "restroom"), but "math teacher" definitely is not.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Such contractions also exist in languages that spell them as one word (Schokolade- und Käsekuchen). The existence of such expressions does not prove that orthography matters for syntax.
    My point was that in English, you can abbreviate "chocolate cake" to just "chocolate" (context-depending) but you can't (generally) abbreviate "cheesecake" to "cheese." Maybe the following example is clearer:

    What's your favorite type of cake?
    Chocolate.
    [= chocolate cake]

    What's your favorite type of cake?
    *Cheese. [= cheesecake]
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Here's a "noun to adjective" example I think we can all agree on:

    That was a fun party.

    We can say "very fun," "more fun," "most fun," etc.
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Basing linguistic analysis on the accidentalities of purely arbitrary orthographic conventions (horseradish=one word, number plate=two words) is not very convincing. This is another reason why I don't agree with this inflationary use of the concept of an adjective.
    You have a point there, berndf. I am particularly interested in two-word expressions/compounds oscillating between one-word and two-word writing. It is inconceivable to me that the 'rest' part is an adjective in rest room, but must be considered a noun in the restroom compound (or, for that matter, ice in ice tea and icecream respectively).
    I'm inclined to sharing your opinion that the function of a word cannot change in dependence on purely orthographic conventions.

    ( If I compare love letter and Liebesbrief, I can't help regarding also love as a noun..)
     
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    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    It is inconceivable to me that the 'rest' part is an adjective in rest room, but must be considered a noun in the restroom compound
    It's not a noun in "restroom"; the whole word "restroom" is simply a single noun. Within the eight-parts-of-speech framework, the "rest" in "restroom" is not considered its own part of speech.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    You have a point there, berndf. I am particularly interested in two-word expressions/compounds oscillating between one-word and two-word writing. It is inconceivable to me that the 'rest' part is an adjective in rest room, but must be considered a noun in the restroom compound (or, for that matter, ice in ice tea and icecream respectively).
    I'm inclined to sharing your opinion that the function of a word cannot change in dependence on purely orthographic conventions.
    A good example. A rest room ist a room for resting and not a room, which rests. In @elroy's example just above (where fun is undoubtedly an adjective) fun party means party, which is fun. Interpreted as a compound noun, it would mean something like party for fun.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's not a noun in "restroom"; the whole word "restroom" is simply a single noun. Within the eight-parts-of-speech framework, the "rest" in "restroom" is not considered its own part of speech.
    The eight-parts-of-speech framework may work quite nicely with Latin and Greek, but it presents problems with any serious analysis of English, not to mention a whole load of other languages. English is a highly analytic language with a dearth of inflectional morphemes. That means that you cannot always tell a word's function from its form. Whilst English cannot really be classed as an isolating language, it does have significant isolating tendencies in that the "dictionary" form of a word may be capable of being more than one part of speech. We have no difficulty deciding when a word is a finite verb, but whether it is an adjective or noun is a bit more problematic.

    With a word like restroom you have to ignore the orthography. Many words of that type start off being written as two words, then get a hyphen followed by the hyphen disappearing. With restroom what we are talking about is a room and rest tells us what sort of a room it is. There are three possible ways of analysing it:

    1. It is a compound noun
    2. Rest is a noun used adjectively and room is a noun
    3. Rest is an adjective
     
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