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Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft

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Reflections on Noun-to-Verb Conversion In English

Heike Baeskow1


Citation Information: Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft. Volume 25, Issue 2, Pages 205–237, ISSN (Online) 1613-3706, ISSN (Print) 0721-9067, DOI: 10.1515/ZFS.2006.008, November 2006

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English denominal verbs formed by conversion adopt complex morphosyntactic and semantic information in a rather mysterious way. For example, the lexical item bottle is unambiguously interpreted as a referential expression in a sentence like John bought a bottle of wine, but how do we account for the event-reading of the same lexical item in a sentence like John bottled the wine? In this study it will be argued that the lexical information of converted denominal verbs is not provided by an unspecified zero-affix, but by conceptual qualia structures, i. e. by modes of explanation, and that these make explicit the implicit knowledge speakers of English have about the referents of nominal bases and determine the interpretation and formation of the corresponding verbs. Moreover, qualia structures yield not only the basic meanings of denominal verbs, but also allow for context-dependent interpretations, which are a result of coercion (e. g. John bottled the spectators). A mapping relation between qualia structures and argument structures, the latter of which are part of the lexical representation of the denominal verbs, will be established by meaning postulates.

Keywords: word-formation; conversion; lexicon; qualia structures; coercion; proto-roles

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