Nominal gerund phrases in English as phrasal zero derivations

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In this paper, I argue that contrary to commonly held belief, the -ing affix in nominal gerund phrases (NGPs) in English does not function as a nominalizing element. The primary evidence for the argument comes from the failure of the V-ing element in NGPs to take nominal inflections (Pullum 1991), unlike nominalized verbs heading phrasal nominalizations in languages with dedicated nominalizing affixes (such as Korean), which behave morphologically as nominals. However, in order to account for the fact that (i) V-ing, when used in lexical deverbal nominalizations, behaves morphologically as a noun, and (ii) the same element is used in both lexical and phrasal nominalizations (i.e. NGPs), I propose that both types of nominalizations are zero-derived from projections of the present participle form of the verb - the difference being that zero derivation applies LEXICALLY to V0 in lexical deverbal nominalizations while it applies PHRASALLY to Vn in NGPs. The proposal for English receives support from a similar analysis for lexical and phrasal nominalizations in Spanish, both of which are based on the infinitive. The paper also provides an account of the aforementioned morphological difference between the deverbal elements in English and Spanish nominalizations on the one hand, where nominalizations are based on an inflectional form of verbs (VFORM), and those in languages with dedicated nominalizers, such as Korean, on the other. The analysis proposed in the paper presupposes a view of morphosyntactic interaction in which morphological combinatoric operations such as affixation and zero derivation apply in both the lexicon and syntax. To the extent that it succeeds in answering descriptive and conceptual questions about the behavior of lexical and phrasal nominalizations in different languages, the analysis proposed here provides support for this particular view of morphosyntactic interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-356
Number of pages28
Issue number342
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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