Noun/verb words & other oddities: Unique to English?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Dinosaur, Apr 18, 2016.

  1. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    Trap, wound, park, & other English words are both nouns & verbs.

    Trap is an example for which the noun/verb semantics are closely related, as is wound meaning injure (verb) or an injury (noun).​

    Wound as past tense of wind is pronounced differently & is unrelated to the above semantics relating to injuries.​

    Park is an example for which the noun/verb semantics are unrelated.​

    In English you park in a driveway near your house & drive on a parkway (boulevard).

    I am sure others can provide additional anomalies.

    How many other languages have anomalies similar to or the same as the above?
     
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  3. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    My Brazilian wife did not know blow, blowing. But she made "winding" from noun "wind." As in: Dress warm because it is winding today.

    Native speakers of English have done the same. Snow --> snowing and dozens of other examples, But I think she is first, with wind --> winding.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2016
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You obviously have never studied the language with the largest number of speakers on this planet: Chinese. It makes English look orderly. Chinese words are coined so that juxtaposition of components is not identical to more than three or four other words that can be more-or-less easily distinguished.

    (Yes, Chinese is actually several different languages that are not mutually intelligible--Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghai, Fujou, etc. But they all use the same words, pronounced differently, and the same grammar and syntax, with about 97% consistency. The reason for this is that the written language is not phonetic. It brings everyone together in vocabulary and grammar, as they continue to diverge phonetically. In Mandarin, "five" is pronounced "wu," whereas in Cantonese it's pronounced "ng.")

    The main reason for the anomalies you present is that, perhaps more than any other major language, English is not strongly descended from one primary ancestor. The Germanic invaders (the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, etc.) who conquered the original Celtic inhabitants of Britannia brought Old High German with them, which became known as Anglisc and ultimately English. But only a few centuries later, the Normans conquered the Anglo-Saxons and brought their language with them.

    Medieval French soon became the official language of government, commerce, diplomacy, scholarship and the church. The common folk continued to speak their Germanic language, but it absorbed hundreds of French words. In order for this to succeed, the language underwent phonetic realignment that allowed the Germanic and Latin words to be pronounced by the same people, and it also underwent a tremendous simplification of grammar, because the Germanic and French suffixes for gender, number, verb tense and other inflections were not compatible.

    The result is what you see and, in many cases, what you even offered as examples. There are many word-pairs in English with utterly different meanings, because one is of Germanic origin and the other of French.

    But it didn't stop there. As English became the language of scholarship in recent centuries, it has assimilated, wholesale, entire paradigms of Latin and Greek words in science and other realms of study. It wouldn't be difficult to craft a sentence in which every important word is derived from a different language. And of course it's inevitable that some of these words would have homonyms derived from yet another language.

    After all, we've got words from Chinese (coolie), Japanese (shogun), Hindi (khaki), Korean (gook--yes ugly slang is quickly adopted, although "gook" is simply the word for "Korean"), Russian (troika), Spanish (buckaroo-from vaquero), Native Australian (didgeridoo), Native American (teepee, igloo), and African languages (banjo).

    The word "OK" has fairly respectable pedigrees in at least three languages: English, Scots Gaelic and Wolof (an African language).
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2016
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  7. DrKrettin Registered Senior Member

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    I suspect that English has assimilated more words from more foreign languages than any other language ever has, although I say this with no real quantative evidence to back it up. This process is of course not new - a friend who was a Greek scholar estimated that about 30% of what we know as Classical Greek vocabulary had been imported from Egypt, but he died before completing his study of this. Incidentally, in this changing world with increasing numbers of new concepts requiring new vocabulary, the ability of a language to remain alive depends to a great extent on its ability to assimilate and adapt new words, and this is a great strength of English. It is also the great weakness of Welsh, which seems totally incapable of incorporating any new vocabulary and making it sound natural. (Cue outrage from any Welsh fans here)
     
  8. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    "Tacsi"? ...according to Kingsley Amis at least....
     
  9. DrKrettin Registered Senior Member

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    Yes, such words exist in Welsh, but when a language wants to import a new concept like ironing a shirt, and decides to invent the verb "smootho", what can you say?
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    French might be a competitor for that honor.

    However, Japanese probably wins the prize. When Buddhist monks from Iron-Age China came to Bronze-Age Japan, they brought a whole vocabulary of ideas, activities and artifacts for which the Japanese had no words because they hadn't developed the concepts that the words represent. Modern Japanese is a hodgepodge of native words interspersed with Chinese words--most of which no Chinese would recognize because the phonetics have shifted over all those centuries, but of course they'd recognize them in writing.
    I am highly skeptical of this assertion. Greek is one of the most-studied, most-analyzed languages on Earth. I've only seen one or two etymologies of Greek words (lemur comes to mind) that do not go directly back to Proto-Indo-European.

    The names of plants and animals are the most likely to be taken from foreign languages. "Camel" is a word from the Semitic languages. In fact, the name of the third letter of the Hebrew abjad, which is pronounced "G," is gimel, "camel." (Greek "gamma" is the same name, although it's difficult to trace the shape of the original Phoenician letter to its Greek descendant.) Our language is full of foreign biological names like aardvark, kangaroo, moose, okapi, orangutan, wombat. The capybara of South America (the world's largest rodent) has recently become a popular pet for Americans who can provide them with a swimming hole.

    It's other languages that have assimilated hundreds--or even thousands--of Greek words; not vice versa.
    Because of its phonetic and grammatical structures, it's almost impossible to import foreign words into Chinese.

    You'll understand this if you watch what they have to do in order assimilate country names.
    • America --> Mei Guo
    • Sweden --> Ruei Dian.
    • Spain (España) -->Xi Ban Ya
    • Germany (Deutschland) --> De Guo
    • Mexico --> Muo Xi Ge
    The only English word I know that has been "borrowed" by Chinese is "vitamin," which comes out "wei ta ming," and just happens to mean "Only this gives life."
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  11. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    More like post 2: My Brazilian wife does not know word "solve" so she will "solutionate" problems when she can.
     
  12. DrKrettin Registered Senior Member

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    If my memory serves me correctly, I think there are quite a few place names in Greece which are not traceable to Proto-Indo-European - ones ending in -assos like Parnassus. In addition, Zeus is the only major Greek god whose name is undisputedly of Indo-European origin. As for Greek being one of the most studied, you can count me in on this army because my PhD was concerning Greek etymologies, particularly those of the deities. This doesn't automatically make everything I say correct, but it does mean I can argue about Greek etymologies ad nauseam.
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    A friend of mine was trying to convince us that the names of all celestial objects are the same in all languages, and are derived from Greek. The "Pleiades," for example, is probably taken from the Greek verb plein, "to sail." My wife and I recently bought a Subaru SUV, and I reminded my friend that the auto company's logo is a stylized image of the Pleiades. However, the Japanese name for the constellation, "Subaru," refers to a hair style!
     
  14. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    From my Post #1
    I started this Thread to find out if other languages had words which were both nouns & verbs.

    So far, nobody has answered this question.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    In English, with the influence of the Celtic language of the original inhabitants of the island, then the influence of the Latin of the Roman conquerors, then the influence the Germanic dialects brought over after the Romans went home, and finally the influence of the Norman French who imposed their language as the language of government, business and scholarship, most of the grammatical suffixes on our words have been lost. We've kept the -s that signifies both the present tense of a verb and the plural of a noun, the -d that identifies a verb in the past tense, the -ing that changes a verb to a gerund, and the -n that occasionally forms the past tense of common verbs that never lost their German participles (driven, written, spoken, fallen, etc.) Compared to a language like Spanish, Japanese or Russian, English has virtually no inflections.

    I point this out because in most languages it's difficult for a word to be both a noun and a verb, because the language's rules of grammar will load it down with suffixes that distinguish the noun from the verb, from the adjective, from the preposition, etc.

    Chinese is one of the few major languages that has no inflections. However, to avoid confusion, it's rare for a noun and a verb (both of which usually have two to four syllables) to be identical. In fact, when it happens, the population is uncomfortable with it and will eventually replace it with something less confusing.
     
  16. kx000 Valued Senior Member

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    Science is verb/noun
     
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    "Science" is a noun only. Refer to Dictionary.com .

    Of course people twist their languages around colloquially, and English is no exception. But no professor or editor will permit "science" to be used as a verb.
     
  18. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    Another English language anomaly.

    Tear: Noun. Saline secretion from the eye.

    Tear: Verb. To rend or rip as in tear a piece of paper in half.​

    Spelled the same; Pronounced differently
     
  19. mtf Banned Banned

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    These are homonyms, they can be found in many languages: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym
     
  20. mtf Banned Banned

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    In some languages, the infinitive form of a verb can also function as a noun in certain positions in a sentence.
    E.g. German: verb: "essen" 'to eat'; noun: "das Essen" 'that which is eaten; a meal'.

    See post nr. 12 for an explanation.
     
  21. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    From Mtf Post #16, which is incorrect:
    This referred to my Post #15
    Homonyms have the same pronunciation & different meanings. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym
     
  22. mtf Banned Banned

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    In which case, they are homographs.
    The Wiki article explains this.
     
  23. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

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    Krittika
    A lunar mansion, one among 27; personified as the nurses of Kārttikeya, a son of Shiva.
     

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