Journal of Linguistics

Research Article

The role of Aktionsart in deverbal nouns: State nominalizations across languages1


a1 Institutt for Språkvitenskap, Universitetet i Tromsø

a2 Université Lille 3 & CNRS (UMR 8163)


Most of the literature devoted to the study of deverbal nominalizations concentrates on the complex event reading (e.g. La concentración de partículas tiene lugar a temperatura ambiente ‘The concentration of particles takes place at room temperature’) and the object reading (e.g. El paciente tenía concentraciones de calcio en el hombro ‘The patient had calcium concentrations in the shoulder’), while nominalizations denoting states (e.g. La concentración de Sherlock Holmes duró cinco horas ‘Sherlock Holmes’ concentration lasted five hours') have remained, in general, understudied. In this paper we present their empirical properties and argue that, despite the empirical differences, state nominalizations and event nominalizations can receive a unified account. We show that in Spanish, Catalan, French, English and German the question of whether a deverbal nominalization denotes a state or an event, or is ambiguous between both readings depends on independent properties of the verbal base, allowing us to propose a unified account of both classes of nominalizations: the productive nominalizers in these languages can only denote the aspectual notions contained in the base's Aktionsart. We further argue that other languages, like Slovenian, have productive nominalizers that can operate over the external aspect of the predicate; in these cases, the nominalization can denote aspectual notions not contained in the base's Aktionsart.

(Received November 04 2011)

(Revised June 07 2011)

(Online publication November 23 2011)


c1 Authors' addresses: (Fábregas) Humanities, Social Sciences and Education Faculty, University of Tromsø, N-9037, Tromsø, Norway

c2 (Marín) UMR 8163 “Savoirs, Textes, Langage” (STL), Université de Lille 3 – Bât. B4, Rue du Barreau – BP 60149, 59653 Villeneuve d'Ascq Cedex, France

[1] The research underlying this article has been financed by grants Aurora Project 199749/V11 from the Norwegian Research council, ANR 07-JCJC-0085-01 from the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche and FFI2010-1506 from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Education. We are grateful to Peter Svenonius, Isabelle Roy, Tom McFadden, Gillian Ramchand, Irene Franco, Annie Gagliardi, Alexander Pfaff, Lanko Marušič and three anonymous reviewers of Journal of Linguistics for data, useful comments, enlightning suggestions and enriching discussion. All disclaimers apply.

The following abbreviations are used in this paper: 3=third person; acc=accusative case marking; adj=adjectivizer; aux=auxiliary verb; gen=genitive case marking; inf=infinitive marker; nom=nominalizer; part=participle marker; pf=perfective stem; pl=plural number; pt=particle; sg=singular number; ThV=theme vowel.