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A Diachronic Account of English Deverbal Nominals
Stephen Wechsler
498-506 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Chomsky (1970) famously observed that while the verb grow alternates between transitive and intransitive (Tomatoes grow here. / John grows tomatoes.), the noun growth is only intransitive (the growth of the tomatoes / *John's growth of tomatoes). This paper offers the following diachronic explanation: the noun growth entered the language long before the innovation of a specialized transitive grow ('cultivate plants'). The intransitive argument structure inherited by the noun from its source verb was simply preserved into present-day English. More generally, deverbal nominals inherit the argument structure of the base verb (Rappaport 1983). Thus English verb-to-noun conversion, far from providing evidence for the syntactic analysis of causativization (the 'little v hypothesis'; Marantz 1995, inter alia), strongly supports the view that the agent argument is specified in the lexical argument structure. The ing-of nominals are formed through a productive lexical ing-nominalization rule: cf. my googling/*googlation of word strings. Hence for ing-nominals the history of the verb plays no role; the noun inherits the current verb's argument structure: John's growing of tomatoes.

Published in

Proceedings of the 26th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Charles B. Chang and Hannah J. Haynie
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00