Deverbal nouns are nouns that are derived from verbs or verb phrases. The formation of deverbal nouns is a type of nominalization (noun formation). Examples of deverbal nouns in English include organization (derived from the verb organize), the noun construct /ˈkɒnstɹʌkt/ (from the verb construct /kənˈstɹʌkt/), discovery (from the verb discover), and opening (in the sense of 'aperture') from the verb open.
Distinction between verbal and deverbal nouns
In English, deverbal noun stands in contrast with the verbal noun. A verbal noun has the same verb+ing form as a participle or gerund, but unlike a participle or gerund syntactically functions as a noun. Semantically, a verbal noun directly relates to the action described by the verb, as in Brown's deft painting of his daughter is wonderful, which describes the way that Brown paints, the building of the bridge took 20 years, which relates to the process of building, or the opening of the crypt, which relates to the act or process of opening the crypt.
A deverbal noun in English is formed either by conversion (go) or by suffixation (decision). While the -ing suffix is one manner of creating deverbal nouns, such deverbal nouns differ from verbal nouns. Deverbal nouns are often used to describe the results of actions (building in the building is tall, painting in the painting was stolen, or opening in the opening was wide) or to describe events, such as meeting in the meeting was effective.
A verbal noun is an abstract uncountable noun while a deverbal noun can be either countable or uncountable.
Verbal nouns and deverbal nouns are distinct syntactic word classes. Functionally, deverbal nouns operate as autonomous common nouns, while verbal nouns (which are formally identical to gerunds) retain verbal characteristics. (A similar distinction can be made between verbal adjectives – such as participles used verbally – and deverbal adjectives.)
The distinction between verbal and deverbal nouns is illustrated in the following English sentences, in which words derived from verbs by adding -ing behave sometimes as gerunds, and sometimes as verbal nouns. (Further information can be found in the article on -ing.)
- Catching fish is fun.
- Here catching is a gerund; it takes an object (fish), like the verb catch.
- Shouting loudly is enjoyable.
- Here shouting is a gerund; it is modified by the adverb loudly, like the verb shout.
- Loud shouting makes me angry.
- Here shouting is a verbal noun; it is modified by an adjective loud (like a noun such as music).
Sometimes (particularly when the -ing word is used alone without modifiers) the matter is ambiguous, although there may be a difference in meaning depending on whether it is intended as a verbal or gerund. Consider the sentence:
- Shouting is nice.
Here shouting could be either a gerund or a verbal noun. If it is intended as a gerund, it can be assumed to mean that shouting is nice for the person doing the shouting (To shout is nice and Shouting loudly is nice.) On the other hand, if intended as a verbal noun, it can be assumed to mean that shouting is nice for those experiencing the shouting. (Compare sentences in which the subject is unambiguously a verbal noun, such as Loud shouting is nice.)
Deverbal nouns may be categorized semantically according to what facet of the process (that the verb refers to) they denote, that is, what facet of the process is reified (construed as a thing). Examples are:
- Nouns denoting an activity, such as running, relaxation
- Nouns denoting a specific action, such as murder, discovery (in many cases a noun may refer to either a single action or a general activity, depending on context)
- Agent nouns, such as invader, singer
- Patient nouns, denoting the party to whom or for whom something is done, such as draftee, employee
- Nouns denoting manner, such as walk in She has a funny walk
- Nouns denoting an ability, such as speech in She regained her speech
- Nouns denoting a result, such as dent, scratch
- Nouns denoting an object or system of objects, such as building, fencing, piping.
When words are derived by conversion, it may not be clear whether a noun is derived from a verb or vice versa. This is common in English; examples of words that are both verbs and nouns (with related meanings) are bruise, hope, rain, work, etc. See also initial-stress-derived noun.
Nouns in Indonesian can be nominalized from a verb using suffix "-an", prefix "peng-", or confixex "ke-an", "peng-an", and "per-an", for example (e.g.: the verb bangun could be affixed into "bangunan", "pembangun", "kebangunan", "pembangunan", ).
In Japanese, verbal nouns are treated (grammatically and orthographically) as verb forms, while deverbal nouns are treated as nouns. This is reflected in okurigana (following characters), which are used for verb conjugation and, similarly, for verbal nouns, but not for deverbal nouns. For example, 話す, 話し, 話 (hana-su, hana-shi, hanashi) are the verb, nominalized verb (VN), and deverbal noun (DVN) of "converse", "conversation (the act)", "conversation (the episode)" – the first two are written with following hiragana characters (す, し), as verb forms, while the latter is written without following characters, as a noun. A more dramatic example is found in 氷る, 氷り, 氷 (koo-ru, koo-ri, koori), meaning "freeze", "freezing", "ice (literally: freezing)", where the verbal origins are more distant from the current use of the noun.
Chinese is a morphology-poor language. Many of the nouns denoting an action can be used as a verb without morphological change. For example, 研究 yanjiu ‘research’ can be used as a noun and a verb depending on syntactic context.
- Jaggar, Philip J. (2001). Hausa. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. p. 285 (Chapter 8: Verbal Nouns, Deverbal Nouns, and Infinitives). ISBN 978-90-272-3807-8.
- Taylor, John R. (2001-01-18). Possessives in English. Oxford University Press. p. p. 242 (Section 9.3: Semantic Structure of Deverbal Nouns). ISBN 978-0-19-829982-0.
4. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Longman Publication. Page. 1288 (Chapter 17)