Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2009 October 8

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October 8[edit]

Forms referring to somebody doing an action[edit]

I have asked this question before, a few years ago on Wikiversity, but I didn't really get a definitive answer.









What is this form (I know that in that capacity they don't act like verbs) called?

Thanks, Falconusp t c 04:35, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

There are several names for them: agent nouns, agent nominalizations (, or -er nominals/nominalizations ( (talk) 06:13, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

Unless it depends on the context in which the interlocutors exchange their meanings (the pragmatics); in semantics, these are possible ‘back-formation’. A corpus linguist can confirm this according to their origin. If it is the case of back-formation, then the process is called nounizations. Some linguists also refer such process as ‘nominalization’ (a noun which has its origin from a verb). Does it make sense?Nevill Fernando (talk) 22:35, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
Not to me, it doesn't (make sense), Nevill. I don't believe any of these are back formations, which occur when an apparently more basic form is created from an apparently derived form. "But(t)le", from "butler" is an example of a back formation, but it has never become an established word in English. I don't understand your references to either pragmatics or semantics, and "nounization" is not in wide use, certainly not among linguists. Linguists do indeed talk about nominalization, but they mean the use of a verb as a noun without morphological change (see the WP article): nouns derived from verbs are usually referred to as deverbal nouns. --ColinFine (talk) 07:18, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

Among this list, wisher in particular is not at all what's normally termed an agent within linguistics. CGEL (p1698) calls them "deverbal -er nouns" among person nominalisations (p1697). -- Hoary (talk) 08:54, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

Well, I agree with you, except few misconception (or complications) thereagainst, i.e. on the question why such occurrences are ‘back-formation’ as they are natural occurrences in any language evolution; a word origin consisting of noun-to-verb form is a usual occurrence. A verb-to-noun form is the reverse formation. A corpus linguist with enough quantitative research can analyze and confirm this linguistically. Otherwise, one has to rely on simple analogies.
On the explanation about ‘deverbal’, it seems the examples or the explanations provided on the page are simply ‘infinitives’ in English.
On the explanation about ‘nominalization’, it is simply a transformation of a other word classes in to a noun class (a group of words as a noun) whether it is an agent nominalizations or event nominalizations or a person nominalizations. An example of common misconception is these:
(1) the crying baby in the hall +VP
(2) the baby’s crying in the hall +VP
In these examples, both of the bold phrases are nominal and the transformations are nominalizations. However, the verb ‘cry’ acts as nominal only in the phrase (2) but not in the phrase (1).
Some additional misconceptions can be clarified if one takes these example to a syntax analysis. Is there any additional explanations? Nevill Fernando (talk) 16:07, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
I think you are claiming that noun->verb is somehow more normal than verb->noun. I don't think this is the case (consider Semitic languages, for example, where most roots are verbal).
I agree that the deverbal page is inadequate: I referenced it without looking at it. As I understand the term, a deverbal is any noun which is formed from a verb, by whatever process so 'construct (n)', 'sender', 'crying (n)', 'exclamation', 'employee' are all English deverbals. Of these, only 'construct' and 'crying' are nominalisations as described in our article.
I don't know what the 'misconception' is that you refer to. crying in those two phrases is functionally different, and they are usually classified as a participle and a gerund respectively (though some linguists, eg Peter Daniels, argue that it is not useful to classify them as different forms since they are morphologically identical for all English verbs). As you say, the phrases are NP's, but only one of the instances of crying is nominal.
What is it you are looking for explanations of? --ColinFine (talk) 17:58, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
Okay, deverbal noun. Thank you. I knew that there had to be a word for it. Falconusp t c 00:52, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Der Teufel sitzt im Spiegel[edit]

On reading the Herta Müller article, I see she published a book called Der Teufel sitzt im Spiegel, which the article (or probably the official English translation, rather) translates as The Devil is Sitting in the Mirror. It's been a long time since I did German grammar, but can someone verify (or falsify) my reasoning as follows: "im Spiegel" is a contraction of "in dem Spiegel", and as Spiegel is masculine then "dem" means this is the accusative case. This note confirms my recollection that, for a two-way preposition like "in", the accusative denotes motion towards (not just being at a location). So, am I right in thinking that a literal (if unavoidably ungainly) translation would be "The Devil sits into the mirror" (in that he's not in there all the time, but we're talking about the momentary action of his sitting in there)? Looking at wiktionary:sitzen, I can't see an alternate way of expressing setzen that would allow for a gainly English sentence that properly implies the motion; is "the Devil sets himself into the mirror" what the German is intended to mean (which seems more poetic than a little devil on a little chair, which sounds rather twee to me). -- Finlay McWalterTalk 16:46, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

Maybe it would help to read the book and learn what the context is. To me, "The devil sits in the mirror" would mean that the devil is positioned in the mirror. →Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots 17:24, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
Finlay McWalter, I think your confusion may come from the fact that im Spiegel is--unless I'm mistaken--in dative case, not accusative. See the Wikipedia article onGerman_articles: im = "in dem", which is dative. Also, isn't the verb in question sitzen not setzen? German does the same thing as English sit-set: sitzen is to sit (intransitive), and setzen (transitive) is to set. I think the "devil" is merely sitting, not setting himself. -- (talk) 17:39, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
Actually, I'm pretty sure a better translation would omit 'sitting' entirely. "The devil is in the mirror", (akin to "devil in the details"). It's not implying the devil is literally sitting in front of the mirror. It's that the devil is inherent to the mirror; that the mirror has (or mirrors in general have) evil properties. (E.g. as a symbol/cause of vanity) --Pykk (talk) 17:59, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
Yes, im is dative, and I agree with Pykk that this use of sit is not idiomatic in English. German often uses verbs meaning "sit", "stand", or "lie" where English would use the verb "to be". A better translation would be The Devil Is in the Mirror (i.e., looking back at you). Marco polo (talk) 19:16, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Pykk and Marco Polo. As for sitzen and setzen, 71.111 is right that the former is intransitive and the latter transitive; however, sich setzen is used for the action of sitting down (as opposed to the state of being in a sitting position, which is what sitzen means); in this case, you would use the accusative after in, e.g. Der Teufel setzt sich in den Sessel ("the devil sits down in the armchair"). +Angr 06:09, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
It seems the verb sich setzen can also function as a linking verb (copula), e.g. Das Schloss setzt sich schön. If this example is a correct form, then the reflexiveness of ‘sich’ is the factor that causes the transformation. Or, is this just a synonym?
Otherwise, it seems the verb ‘setzen’ is a kind of verbs that depend on an accusative object for a complement and a dative object as an adjuct. Is this correct? Nevill Fernando (talk) 23:17, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

Emergency rhyme[edit]

In Swedish and Norwegian, there is a term, "nödrim" (lit: "emergency rhyme"); meaning something like: "the use of nonsensical / unusual words just to make two lines rhyme". It's a somewhat derogatory term, and pop song lyricists are frequently accused of employing them. Is there a corresponding word or term in English? Thanks, decltype (talk) 18:14, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

In Britain at any rate, "forced rhyme" or "contrived rhyme" are probably about the closest. I like the "emergency" idea much better though :D ╟─TreasuryTagpresiding officer─╢ 18:18, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
The concept of half rhyme is similar, but the connotation is not identical to nödrim. (That's a really cute term. I notice "nöd" must be cognate to German Not as in Notausgang. Interesting, does German have *Notrhym or something?) - (talk) 18:20, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the answers. Yes, you are right about "nöd / Not", assuming "Notausgang" = "Emergency exit". That's a "nødutgang / nödutgång" in Norwegian and Swedish, respectively. Regards, decltype (talk) 18:32, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
TreasuryTag's terms work in American English too. Marco polo (talk) 19:12, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
The term i would use is "Poetic Licence", the article on Artistic Licence gives a number of other similar terms.
Cynical and Skeptical (talk) 23:43, 8 October 2009 (UTC)
I agree, but I like "emergency rhyme" and I think we should all start using it in English! --Anonymous, 04:48 UTC, October 9, 2009.
71.111, the German word for rhyme is Reim, not *Rhym, so a German calque of nödrim would be Notreim. That word does not appear in either my Duden or my Wahrig, but it does get 250 hits at regular Google, and 197 at Google Books. Here's one example. My impression is that it isn't an established term, but that (like so many compounds in German) it's a semantically transparent compound that can be created whenever needed by a speaker/writer. (P.S. English also has a cognate to nöd and Not, namely need.) +Angr 06:20, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for that info, Angr. Wow, *Needrhyme, sounds like something from Beowulf :)
Yup, if the Normans hadn't invaded, perhaps English would use the word more too.. Just imagine! Instead of "necessarily" we could have been saying "needwendishwise" :) --Pykk (talk) 15:11, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
See Anglish -- (talk) 15:28, 9 October 2009 (UTC)

-- (talk) 10:21, 9 October 2009 (UTC) Thanks all! decltype (talk) 06:44, 9 October 2009 (UTC)