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Coverb vs. Converb[edit]

The content covering Converbs was moved away from here. Discussion at Talk:Converb#Wrong Phenomenon. --Latebird (talk) 13:26, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

I will get around to fixing this up at some stage, but I'm considerably busier now than I was when I requested the split. jangari - ngili-ma 00:29, 7 February 2008 (UTC)


Topic moved here from Talk:Converb after split. --Latebird (talk) 15:47, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

I've seen this term pop up here and there but still don't know much about what a coverb is.

I'd be willing to bet they are classified differently by different analyses of the same language. I'm sure I've seen them mentioned in relation to Chinese. Part of speech formerly mentioned them in relation to only Australian languages. But now I'm looking at a textbook, "Hungarian: An Essential Grammar", ISBN 0-415-22612-0, which devotes its chapter 4, section 6 to this class of words.

They seem to be separable prefixes which fill rolls similar to the adverbial parts of English phrasal verbs or the separable prefixes of German verbs. They can indicate direction, manner, grammatical aspect, and more. Some are idiomatic, changing the meaning of the verb they attach to. Coverbs do not freely mingle with verbs but each verb may have a set of coverbs it can pair with. Only one coverb can attach to a verb at a time.

Please add any comments and observations on what properties coverbs have in other languages. — Hippietrail 06:21, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I've done a fair bit of work in coverbs over the past 2 years and will endeavour to fix up this page. Aidhoss 00:33, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

Coverbs in Swiss German???[edit]

Topic moved here from Talk:Converb after split. --Latebird (talk) 15:40, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

Hello everybody,

I've read the article and struggled to find a counterpart or a possible way of paraphrasing what a coverb does in my own mothertounge. After a few moments of searching my mind, I found a construction that I actually do use very often, and so do many other speakers of Swiss German ("Alemannisch" in Wikipedian). I would now let you linguists (though I consider myself one, too) decide whether or not you would find the following something like a coverb-like usage...

In Swiss German, there are two constructions that denote direction away and direction towards, formed with what I would perceive to be forms of the verbs gaa ([gɑː] - to go) and choo ([xɔː] - to come).

Swiss German Ich gang go poschte Ich chum cho hälfe
IPA (sort of) ɪx - gɑŋ - gɒ - poʃtə ɪx - xʊm - xɒ - hælfə
Word by Word I - go - go - to shop I - come - come - to help
(in 3rd pers) he - goes - go - to shop he - comes - come - to help

(Sorry, couldn't be bothered anymore to change the whole thing into 3rd person. Still, I've added the English 3rd person in order to illustrate the syntax.)

The inserted verb stems (go and cho) are in an infinite form and unstressed. The only semantic weight that they carry is that they emphasise the direction. Historically, I take it there is little doubt that the form is basically a derivation of constructions like "I go (to) work", with a prefix-like redoublication of the verb in front of the action, which is thereby located as near or far from the speaker, as if it were a noun. Note that the only finite forms are those in 2nd position, gang and chum

Their character of being some kind of preposition to a verb is illustrated by the even less "grammatically correct" usage of go and cho outside phrases containing the verbs to go and to come, respectively:

"Wo isch de Peter?" - "Er isch go poschte." - (Where is Peter? - He is go to shop.)

"Und, was hätter gmacht?" - "Er isch cho hälfe." - (So, what did he do? - He is come to help.)

Note that in both of these phrases, the originally present past participles ğange and choo are now missing.

I don't know, give me your ideas, I'd be glad to hear a more professional (or well-founded at least) opinion on the matter.

Cheers, Trigaranus 21:28, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

I'm not that proficient with coverbs, but according to the Hauptseminar on complex predication in which I took part, your examples should qualify as coverbial. But so should auxiliary items in much less grammaticalized constructions, say, "Ich komme helfen", "Ich gehe schwimmen". I don't know whether this is more widespread in German, but familiar languages such as Turkish, Japanese, Manchu and Mongolian use auxiliaries not only for spatiality, but for modality (probability), aktionsart (begin, end, completion, duration), Konativ etc., usually connecting a main verb marked with a semantically weak converbial suffix with the auxiliary that would then take the finite marking. I presented items of one of these languages in the course and they were recognized as coverbs. As far as I understand it, "coverb" is only one fine, new label for one phenomenon that is quite common across languages, and I'm not sure if there is much insight to be gained by grouping several similar-looking phenomenons under it. G Purevdorj (talk) 22:44, 2 October 2008 (UTC)

"Coverb" in Hungarian (the part about about another, unrelated phenomenon moved here)[edit]

Note: the following treatment is based upon one single source and is not in accordance with contemporary linguistics of Hungarian. The particle concerned is usually named verbal prefix, rather than coverb, since it has nothing to do with verbs, but it is related to adverbs. See more under Hungarian verbs.

Coverbs in Hungarian provide these roles:

  • additional information about how a verb is executed
  • showing the completeness of an action
  • a role that is similar to changing the grammatical aspect of a verb
  • changing the meaning of a verb to something more idiomatic

Execution information[edit]

Coverbs can provide small information that would be performed by such English words as "up", "down", "away", "out"[1]. For example,

  • megyek - I go .... elmegyek - I go away
  • lép - s/he steps .... belép - S/he enters (literally: steps in)

They are often used with a noun case that is similar to the coverb:

  • belép a boltba - S/he enters the shop (literally: steps in(to))
  • felugrik az asztalra - S/he jumps up onto the table
  • átmegyek Dánielhez - I go over to Daniel's

Completion of an action[edit]

Some coverbs, notably ki-, el- and meg-, can express that an action has been finished[1].

  • Olvasta a könyvet = S/he read the book
  • Elolvasta a könyvet = S/he has finished the book (literally: read away)


The coverb meg- can change the meaning of a verb in a way that's very similar to changing the aspect of an English verb. It changes verbs in a way that's similar to turning "I am eating an apple" into "I am eating up an apple" or turning "I'll be eating an apple" into "I'll eat (up) an apple".[citation needed]

Idiomatic meaning[edit]

A coverb can change the meaning of a verb into something more idiomatic, even something quite unexpected[1]:

  • ad - give
  • elad - sell

(Note: "Elad" is not, as the literal meaning might imply, "give away".)

Splitting of coverbs[edit]

A coverb can split from the verb and change its position in the sentence to express emphasis. Generally, the word being emphasised will precede the conjugated verb and be at the start of the sentence/phrase, and if the verb is not the focus then the coverb must detach and move to a position that reflects that it is not the most important part.

  • Felugrik az asztalra - S/he jumps up onto the table (neutral)
  • Az asztalra ugrik fel - S/he jumps up onto the table (it is the table onto which he jumps)

Note how the part before the verb (the table) is in focus, and to the coverb has been demoted to behind the verb.

  • Felugrik az asztalra - S/he jumps up onto the table

A coverb will split from the infinitive verb when a conjugated verb modifies it:

  • mondani - to say
  • elmondani - to tell
  • el akarok mondani neked valamit - I want to tell you something

This link was given in External links, but it's an incorrect classification of this phenomenon:

Adam78 (talk) 21:47, 5 July 2011 (UTC)

Traditional Chinese[edit]

Why do you always use traditional Chinese characters? This is not standardly used anymore in PRC. Yes, Chinese is also used in Taiwan, but why would you then use a sentence such as "I go from Shanghai to Beijing by aircraft."? Moreover you used 从 in the text and 從 in the example. Very confusing.-- (talk) 04:04, 4 November 2012 (UTC)

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  1. ^ a b c "Coverbs/Verbal prefixes in Hungarian: meg-, el-, etc.". Retrieved 2009-12-21.