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Agentivity and Suffix Selection

Carmen Kelling


The process of deriving nouns from verbal stems is a fairly regular process crosslinguistically and one which has been argued to involve argument structure processes. However, there has been rather less work on the more subtle issue of which verbal stems are compatible with which nominalizing suffixes and why.; 1 or 2 paragraphs

This paper focusses on the selection of the French nominalizing suffixes -age and (-e)ment. In French, there are a variety of suffixes deriving nouns: -ade, -age, -at, -ation, -ée, -erie, -(e)ment, -ure, etc. Among these -age and -(e)ment are particularly interesting in that they yield more than 400 pairs of nominalizations derived from the same verbal base.

Several authors have proposed suffix selection accounts claiming that -age attaches to transitive verbs and -(e)ment is added to intransitive, reflexive or passivized verbs. I argue that this is not sufficient for an account of these nominalization patterns. Rather, the lexical argument structure properties of the verbal bases must be analyzed more precisely in terms of Dowty's (1991) notion of Proto-Roles.
The correct analysis for the distribution of -age and -(e)ment can be formulated nicely via a combination of LFG's mapping theory with Dowty's Proto-Role Approach.

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