Introduction to Linguistics/Structural Grammar
Derivation is common in the modern languages of the world. For example, many of them have productive ways of relating adjectives to change-of-state verbs. In English the verb is derived from the adjective by adding the suffix -en to the adjective. Examples are weaken, shorten, lighten, blacken, sharpen, soften, and loosen. Notice that this process is only somewhat productive; it doesn't apply to long (verb: lengthen), big (verb: grow), or thin (verb: thin). If we learned a new adjective, say, zub, we might not feel completely confident in making into a verb zubben. In some other languages, such as Amharic, it is usually the adjective that is derived from the verb. For example from the verb root drk' meaning 'get dry', the adjective dIrk' 'dry' is derived.
Another possibility, common in English, is for the two forms to be identical. For example, as we have seen, widen can describe a change in the width of something or a causing of such a change. In the last chapter, we treated these two meanings as two different syntax-semantics mappings. In any case, we have no basis for seeing one of them as derived from the other. Another example is provided by the relatively productive pattern in English by which a noun for an instrument can also be used as a verb designating the use of such an instrument. Examples are hammer, saw, chisel, pin, and nail. Though historically the nouns came first, again we can treat the nouns and verbs simply as related meanings of a single word.
- Speech and writing represent different codes
When there is derivational morphology, a Speaker or Hearer of the language must know not only what the grammatical morpheme is and how it combines with the lexical morpheme but also the grammatical convention for how the meaning of the more complex word is derived from the meanings of the two components. Let's consider another English example, the addition of -er to a verb to produce an noun.
- Features of speech
The compositional convention would say something like this: the meaning of the complex word is a person who acts (routinely or one occasion) as the agent of the category of event (action) which the verb designates. Thus a teacher is a person who acts as the agent of a teaching event. The diagram below illustrates the relationships. Like the derivation of verbs from adjectives (or adjectives from verbs) the agent noun derivation of one sort or another is quite common in the world's languages.
- Confusion of speech and writing in textbooks
In a sense these languages are making generalization that are not made in other languages, which must rely on separate, unrelated words or whole phrases to convey the different meanings. In the next I'll describe some of the possibilities for derivational morphology on Lingala verbs Like other languages in the Bantu family, Lingala allows a number of different verbs to be derived from a single verb root.
- Features of writing