nounification of a verb, or verbification of a noun?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by yme, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. yme

    yme Member

    English - USA
    With regard "to xerox", "to fax", and "to text", the noun form definitely preceded the verb form.

    But, please consider "to date", "to thread", and "to wheel". While I have no proof, surely "date", "thread", and "wheel" preceded "to date", "to thread", and "to wheel", right? Native English speakers assert that, as every English sentence must have a verb, attention to verbs/action is the secret to fluency. However, doesn't it seem that nouns trump verbs in English etymology?

  2. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    This all depends on how far back you want to take it. “Date” is from the perfect passive participle of Latin dare, “to give”. “Thread” is from Old English þrawan “to twist”. “Wheel” is from Indo-European *kwel- “to go around”.
  3. yme

    yme Member

    English - USA
    note: I should have clarified that my intended meaning was "to date a letter" and "what is the date of your birthday".

    My interest is in if English really is a verb-centric language.
    (1) every sentence must have a verb.
    (2) there are over ten verb tenses.
    (3) infinitives can be adverbs, adjectives, and nouns.
    (4) present participles can be verbs, adjectives, and nouns.
    (5) past participles can be adjectives and verbs.
    (6) but for predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives, every sentence has action.

    Is English an extremely verb-centric language? Well, if most verbs really are verbified nouns, then no. The evolution of English, as still evidenced by "to google", "to email", etc., is more noun-centric then might be assumed.
    Anyone disagree that, superficially, English is among the most verb-centric languages on earth?
    Anyone disagree that many of the English verbs really are just derivations of nouns? Maybe English is not as verb-centric as it appears?

  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    To date a letter is to indicate when it was data ("given").
  5. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I don't know. There are so many nominalization in Modern English too. In the sentence
    The payer told the payee that having made use of an overdraft facility allowed speeding up the transfer.
    The green nominalizations are borrowed already nominalized from Latin/Romance while the blue nominalizations are genuinely English. Out of these, only draft is inherited from Old English. The others are Modern English innovations.

    On the other hand, verbalization of nouns seems indeed to occur more frequently in English than in many other languages. But that is my very subjective and unscientific impression.:)
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2013
  6. yme

    yme Member

    English - USA
    That example is going to force a reboot of whatever ideas I might have had about "how to think in English". I very much appreciate this insight.
  7. palomnik Senior Member

    I doubt that you can really argue that English is "verb-centric". Pretty much all languages have mechanisms to make verbs out of nouns, and nouns out of verbs too, for that matter.

    The difference with English is that it does not always need to change the form of the noun to turn it into a verb (although in certain cases it does, e.g. bath/bathe). My guess is the reason for this is that English relies so heavily on word order in comparison with other European languages that the verb of the sentence can frequently be determined by its position in the sentence.

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