Institute of English Linguistics (IfLA)

DFG-Project Zero-derived Nouns

DFG-funded research grant IO 91/1-1

Zero-derived nouns and deverbal nominalization: An empirically-oriented perspective, (DFG-funded research grant IO 91/1-1)


Sept. 2018

Funding Period

Sept. 2018 - Aug. 2021

Principal investigator and researcher
Current student assistants

Victoria Eisenheld, Milena Münchbach, Philipp Scheurich, Supriti Sinhamahapatra

Former student assistants

Gioia Baldissin, María Camila Buitrago Cabrera, Anastasiia Iurshina, Sarina Meyer, Prisca Piccirilli, Yaryna Svyryda, Susanne Schweitzer

External collaborators

This project aims to investigate deverbal zero-derived nouns (henceforth, ZNs: e.g., to climba climb-Ø) as a type of deverbal nominalization, by looking at two main aspects: i) how their morphosyntax and interpretation are influenced by the lexical semantics and event structure properties of the base verb and ii) to what extent, if at all, their zero-suffix Ø makes them different from suffix-based nominals (SNs: e.g., the climbing).

Much of the generative literature that discusses ZNs argues that, unlike SNs, ZNs in English are semantically idiosyncratic and morphosyntactically plain, which suggests that they cannot be given a compositional analysis derived from the base verb of the kind that SNs receive, especially when these realize arguments (e.g., John’s breaking of the glass < John broke the glass). This view is supported, among others, by the unsystematic realization of verbal arguments in ZNs (e.g., *John’s break-Ø of the glass). ZNs have thus been treated as idiosyncratic formations or ‘creative coinages’. Various empirical facts, however, challenge this analysis: for instance, some ZNs can realize arguments (cf. his climb-Ø of Kilimanjaro). Moreover, the idiosyncrasy claims are based on sporadic data, especially since the literature on zero derivation has usually focused on the more productive denominal verbs rather than on ZNs.

 This project brings a major contribution to this debate by offering an integrative study of the lexical classes and morphosyntactic patterns of ZNs, guided by the rich corpus data easily accessible today and by previous insightful studies on verb classes in English. The project starts with the assumption that, like SNs, ZNs receive both compositional and idiosyncratic readings. To determine the interplay between the two, it aims to answer the following three questions, which will also lead to the first insights into the theoretical modeling of the morphosyntax and semantics of ZNs:

  1. How do different semantic verb classes correlate with compositional and idiosyncratic ZNs?
  2. Which verb classes derive ZNs that realize verbal arguments?
  3. How do ZNs semantically and morphologically differ from SNs (if at all)?

The focus is English, whose ZNs are especially productive and offer a rich empirical basis. To further delineate the profile of ZNs from possibly interfering typological properties of one language, the study of English will be complemented by insights from Romance languages, especially from Italian – which offers two patterns of ZNs – and Romanian – which has no productive ZNs. This comparison will help to determine i) the specific verb classes that typically derive ZNs across languages and ii) how the broader meaning domain of ZNs in English is compensated for in languages with a restricted use of ZNs, especially via the use of SNs.

  • Eva Wittenberg (University of California San Diego) gave an online talk on deverbal zero nominals from a psycholinguistic perspective in our research seminar, December 15, 2020: see the abstract of her talk here.
  • Gianina Iordachioaia co-organized with Chiara Melloni the online workshop Derivational zero affixes, as part of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea, 26 August – 1 September 2020. The invited speakers of the workshop were Heidi Harley (University of Arizona) and Salvador Valera (University of Granada). See list of accepted talks here and slides of the presentations on the OSF platform.
  • Gianina Iordachioaia paid a research visit at Yale University where she met with Jim Wood between March 9-14, 2020, following a grant from the Landesprogramm Baden-Württemberg/Connecticut: Faculty Mobility Program.
  • Daniela Marzo (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München) visited us on January 22, 2020 and gave a talk on Italian conversion: see the abstract of her talk here.
  • Chiara Melloni (University of Verona) visited us between June 20 and June 27, 2019 as an external collaborator in the project. She also gave a talk at the JENom 8 workshop (see below).
  • Rochelle Lieber (University of New Hampshire) visited us between June 19 and June 25, 2019 as an external collaborator in the project. She gave a talk within the JENom 8 workshop (see below) and another one on Monday, June 24.
  • Our project organized the 8th edition of the international Workshop on Nominalizations/ Journées d'Etude sur les NOMinalisations (JENom 8) on June 21-22, 2019. Invited speakers were Artemis Alexiadou (Humboldt University of Berlin), Rochelle Lieber (University of New Hampshire) and Delphine Tribout (University of Lille). For more information, see here.
  • Andrew Koontz-Garboden (University of Manchester) visited us on May 14-15, 2019 and gave a talk in our research colloquium (see details in our research colloquium).
  • Iordachioaia, G., G. Lapesa, S. Meyer & S. Pado. Difference of first attestation dates as evidence for directionality in zero derivation. Presentation in the workshop The semantics of derivational morphology at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS), University of Freiburg, February 23-26, 2021.
  • Mititelu, V., S. Leseva, I. Stoyanova & G. Iordachioaia. The meanings of nominal vs. verbal zero affixes. Presentation in the workshop The semantics of derivational morphology at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the German Linguistic Society (DGfS), University of Freiburg, February 23-26, 2021.
  • Eisenheld, V. What directionality tests can tell us about the formation of zero-nominals. 29th  Conference of the Student Organisation of Linguistics in Europe, Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (virtual), January 26-28, 2021.
  • Melloni, C. & G. Iordachioaia. Zero suffix in English and Italian deverbal nouns. Workshop Derivational Zero Afiixes, within the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea, online, August 26 - September 1, 2020.
  • Iordachioaia, G. Categorization and nominalization in zero-derived nouns. Workshop Remarks: the Legacy within The 43rd Generative Linguistics in the Old World (GLOW), Humboldt University of Berlin, April 2020.
  • Iordachioaia, G. When a deverbal noun is really derived from a verb: Insights from zero-nouns. The 38th West Coast Conference in Formal Linguistics, University of British Columbia, March 6-8, 2020.
  • Iordachioaia, G. Zero derivation in deverbal nominals: Insights from English verb classes. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, November 6, 2019.
  • Buitrago Cabrera, M. C. Zero-derived Nouns and Manner Verbs. Balaton Linguistics Summer School, Lake Balaton, Hungary, August, 26, 2019.
  • Iordachioaia, G. Event and argument structure in English zero-derived nominals. 52nd Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea, Leipzig University, Germany, August 21-24, 2019.
  • Iordachioaia, G., C. Buitrago-Cabrera, Y. Svyryda & S. Schweitzer. Deverbal zero-nominalization and verb classes: An empirical investigation. Poster at the 8th International Workshop on Nominalizations (Jenom 8), Stuttgart, June 21-22, 2019.
  • Iordachioaia, G. Event and argument structure in English zero-derived nominals. 34th Comparative Germanic Syntax Workshop (CGSW 34), Konstanz, June 14-15, 2019.
  • Iordachioaia, G. Root-derived psych nominals. Wroclaw University, April 1, 2019.
  • Iordachioaia, G. D and N are different nominalizers. Workshop New Horizons in the Study of Nominal Phrases, 41st Annual Conference of German Linguistic Society, Bremen, March 6-8, 2019.
  • Iordăchioaia, G. Zero derivation and word formation: The case of deverbal nouns in English. Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, January 17, 2019. 
  • Iordăchioaia, G. Zero-derived nouns and deverbal nominalization. Humboldt University, Berlin, November 12, 2018.

Further information

This image shows Gianina Iordăchioaia

Gianina Iordăchioaia

/ˌdʒʲa-ˈni-na ˌjɔr-də-ˈkʲʊa-ja/ Principal Investigator (Project Zero-derived Nouns) and Research Associate

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