Sunday, 30 June 2013

Morphological process : Noun to Verb

Nouns are defined as belonging in the lexical category (open word class); a word or a group of words such as the name of a person, place, thing or activity, quality or idea. It can be used as the subject or object of a verb or the object of the preposition, head of the noun phrase, and is preceded by a determiner and/or adjective and/or noun modifier.  

Verbs are defined as also belonging to the lexical category (open word class); a word or a group of words that is used in describing an action, experience or state. It is the head of the verb phrase. Basically, there are seven English morphological processes, which are affixation (that includes prefixation and suffixation), vowel change, root consonant change, suppletion, conversion, compounding, and the most uncommon, reduplication. However, in changing the words class of nouns to verbs, only the most common processes involved are affixation, root consonant change, conversion and vowel change.

This paper discusses the change of word class from nouns to verbs which includes affixation (prefixation and suffixation), back formation (related to affixation) and conversion. 15 nouns have been chosen to show the morphological processes involved in changing the word class from nouns to verbs.

Affixation (suffixation) of -ize
- crystal
- hospital
- civil


Affixation (suffixation) of -en
- length
- fright


Affixation (prefixation) en-
- rich
- light

Affixation (prefixation) mis-
- cast
- place
- trust

Back formation -ment
- government
- replacement
- development


- regard
- regret



The first affixation (suffixation) of -ize means to cause to be (more) something, or make something to become something. Suffix -ise which means the same as suffix -ize is more common in British English, though there are verbs with this suffix that have to be spelt with -ise, such as advertise, merchandise and comprise. It is often used to make new verbs, as in this case, crystallize (to cause to be crystal), hospitalize (to be put into hospital) and civilize (to cause to be civil), from nouns crystal, hospital and civil respectively. Usually, nouns with alveolar or alveo-palatal sound endings take the -ize to become verbs. Some of the sounds are, /d/, /s/, /z/, /n/, /l/, and /r/. Other examples of the verbs which come from nouns with such endings are finalize, computerize, modernize, emphasize, and jeopardize.

The -en suffix carries the meaning made of something, and to (cause to) be, become or have something. For instance, nouns which take the suffix -en to be verbs are length which becomes lengthen (to have length), and fright which becomes frighten (to have fright). Usually, nouns which take the suffix -en to become verbs has endings that require the tip-of-tongue pronunciation (especially dental and alveolar), such as /t/ and /q/. It is possible that some of such words with the endings take suffix -en because it allows the tongue to be more relaxed after the tense in pronouncing high front consonant, in this case /t/ and /q/, because it moves backward to a more lax vowel and consonant /ən/. Perhaps, the aim is to make pronunciation easier for English speakers. Other examples are strength which becomes strengthen, haste which becomes hasten.

The prefix en- is defined as to cause to become; make, or to put into the stated condition. Therefore, when the prefix en- is used with the noun rich, it becomes the verb enrich, which means to become rich or to put into the state of being rich, and with the noun light, it becomes enlighten, which means to become full of light. In the case of changing the word class of light (noun) to enlighten (verb), there is particular order that it has to follow, that is, before adding the prefix en-, the word has to have the suffix -en to make it grammatically acceptable. Thus, the process is light ® lighten ® enlighten. Perhaps, this is so because enlighten has to have light (indicated by suffix -en) before it can be put in the state of full of light (indicated by prefix -en). Usually, the prefix en- precedes alveolar sounds, such as /l/, /d/ and /r/ and plosive sound, such as /k/. For example, dear becomes endear, and close becomes enclose.

Another affixation process is prefixation of mis-. Prefix mis- is a negative affix. Basically, it means bad or badly, wrong or wrongly, and showing an opposition or lacking in something. When prefix mis- is joined with nouns such as cast, place and trust, they become verbs: miscast (to give a cast wrongly to the actor), misplace (to have put something at a wrong place) and mistrust (do not have trust in something/someone) respectively. Usually, nouns which take prefix mis- to become verbs have a plosive consonant sound in the initial position, such as /p/, /t/, /b/ and /k/. Perhaps, this is to allow easy pronunciation to the speakers because fricative /s/ sound in mis- can easily be blocked to produce other meaningful sounds; resulting plosive sounds. For instance, words with such initials are carry which becomes miscarry, call which becomes miscall, and behave which becomes misbehave.

Back formation is when the affix of a word, in focus here is suffix -ment, is deleted to change the word class; in this case from nouns to verbs. Suffix -ment means the act, means or result or something, that is the condition of being something. The process is called ‘back formation’ because the suffix of the word is taken away. We can see this in words such as government which becomes govern (to control and direct affairs of country, city and etc.), replacement which becomes replace (to take the place of something/someone), and development which becomes develop (to become gradually larger, complete or advance). The verbs which are involved in deletion of suffix -ment are in the root word form. Suffix -ment functions as to change the word class from verbs to nouns. Therefore, usually nouns with suffix -ment experience suffix deletion to become verbs. Other examples of nouns that undergo suffix -ment deletion to change word class from nouns to verbs are appointment which becomes appoint and movement which becomes move.

 Conversion is another morphological process which can change nouns to verbs. In conversion, the structure and sound of the words do not change, though the word class is different. Regard and regret are examples of words which are involved in this process – they do not require affixes to change the word class. Usually, words which are included in conversion has two syllabus, and sometimes has very similar meaning in both noun and verb word class. For example, regard (noun) means respect or admiration and regard (verb) means to has respect or admiration, and regret (noun) means a feeling of sadness and sorrow and regret means to feel sad and sorrow. Perhaps, this is why some words do not have any changes even if the word class has changed.

In conclusion, there are several English morphological processes to change the classes of words. In the case of changing nouns to verbs, affixation (including prefixation and suffixation), back formation and conversion are some of the common processes which are involved. Besides the ones discussed in this paper, there are other English morphological processes, such as vowel change, root consonant change, suppletion, compounding and reduplication.  


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