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Zero-Derivation

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Zero-Derivation

Zero (or null) derivations are also known as conversions or functional shifts and originated as a term in the 1960s. They form part of the study of morphology and help identify new word formations.

What is Zero-Derivation?

In linguistics, zero-derivation or conversion is a kind of word formation where you create a word (eg. a noun) from another word (eg a verb) without changing its form.

Because there is no change in form, this is known as a derivation using only zero.

Zero in Linguistics

In linguistics, zero or null is a segment that is not pronounced or written. It is usually written as "∅".

In phonetics, a null phoneme or zero phone indicates that no phone (or sound) is produced where one might be expected.

In morphology, the zero (bound) morpheme has no phonetic form and is also referred to as an invisible affix, null morpheme or ghost morpheme. A zero morpheme is when a word changes its meaning but does not change its form.

A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a language, which means it cannot be reduced beyond its current state without losing meaning.

(See the article on morphemes)

In English, certain nouns and verbs do not change their form even when they change numbers or tenses.

Sheep, deer, fish, keep the same form whether they are used as singular or plural.

Some verbs like 'hit', 'cut' and 'cost' remain the same in the present and past forms.

Zero-derivation - The Ghost Morpheme - StudySmarter Sheep, deer, and fish are examples of ghost morphemes. StudySmarter Original

A zero article is an unspoken indefinite or definite article. This means that in German, there will often be no article in certain plural noun phrases. For example, when we use them with a general or indefinite meaning, as in:

Houses here are expensive.

Eggs are quite cheap.

In linguistics this is called the zero article. The article is understood or implied, but it is not spoken.

We also use the zero article when talking about uncountable or mass nouns:

He drinks tea.

They ate fruit while they waited.

A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in language.

An allomorph is the variant of a morpheme that changes the sound and spelling without changing its basic meaning.

Now that we have seen how zero functions, let's look a little deeper at how zero derivation works in practice.

Examples of Zero-Derivations

'To go for a walk'

Here we have 'a walk' as a noun; yet 'walk' comes from the verb 'to walk'; this means 'walk' was converted from a verb to make the noun 'a walk', and this is called a conversion or zero derivation because no change was necessary to the form of the word.

'The green'

The putting-green in golf: 'green' is used as a noun here, yet is derived or converted from the adjective 'green'.

In English it is normal to find adjectives converted to nouns and vice-versa, although it may be unclear which was the first form.

Words that are both nouns and adjectives: final, green, intellectual, total.

He's waiting to hear back about his finals.

What a green boat! / They're over there on the green.

They're an intellectual crowd /She's an intellectual.

It's a total wreck!/ It's a grand total of twenty million!

Verbs that can act as nouns: win, say, find, take.

He won the lottery / It's a big win.

They say it's a great place in summer / She had the final say.

We found some treasure / It was a wonderful find.

They're taking the week off / Let's do one more take.

Verbification

Verbification happens when an adjective, noun or non-verb is converted to a verb (eg. the adjective 'dirty' becomes the verb 'to dirty').

Thousands of words have been formed by using verbification, and the category is constantly expanding.

Examples of the most common include:

Mail, email, talk, salt, pepper, sleep, ship, train, stop, drink.

I'll send you an email OR I'll email you.

I'll send this by ship to you OR I'll ship this out to you.

I need a drink! OR I need to drink.

He needs a good sleep OR he needs to sleep, etc.

Verbification has produced many new words for everyday use, although it has been criticised by some who believe it produces too many neologisms and slang expressions.

A neologism (from Greek νέο- néo-, "new" and λόγος lógos, "speech"), is a recent or isolated word or phrase that is coming into common use, but that has not yet been fully accepted into mainstream language.

Other examples of verbification include:

Access (noun) = to access (verb) (eg access a document online)

Host (noun) = to host (verb) (eg host a chat show)

Gift (noun) = to gift (verb) (eg to gift a concert ticket to someone)

Fun fact one! To gift is in fact not a new 'verb' at all, but has been around for 400 years; it simply fell out of use until quite recently when it made a come-back, possibly owing to its use in comedies (along with the expression 're-gift').

Fun fact two! While the terms zero derivation or conversion may be quite recent, conversion in language goes back to the time of Shakespeare, who loved converting words!

Examples:

'I eared her language, lived in her eye' (from TheTwo Noble Kinsmen)

'He words me.' (from Anthony and Cleopatra)

'Where death and danger dogs the heels of worth.'(from All's Well that Ends Well)

'Lord Angelo dukes it well' (from Measure for Measure)

Zero-derivation - to gift visualized as an action - StudySmarter 'To gift' has been around for 400 years. StudySmarter Original

Other languages

Verbification does happen in other languages; however, the process often changes the form of the word, so this does not really qualify as conversion.

Verbification is sometimes used to create joking words. In other cases, simple conversion is involved, as with formations like beer, as in 'beer me' (give me a beer) and eye, as in 'eye it' (look at it).

Sometimes, a verbified form can have a prepositional particle, eg, elbow someone out of the way.

Verbification also occurs in social media terms:

Look it up on Google - I will google it.

Message me on Facebook - why don't you facebook me!

Hold a Skype meeting - Let's skype next week.

I just saw it onYoutube - I just youtubed it.

Text me on Whatsapp - You can whatsapp me on this number.

Zero-derivation - Verbification in social media - StudySmarter Verbification also occurs in social media terms. StudySmarter Original

Verbification can also involve parts of the body:

Eye somebody up and down.

Nose around for clues.

Mouth a word.

Shoulder the burden.

Stomach an insult.

Hand in an essay.

Zero-Derivation - key takeaways

  • Zero derivation is also known as conversion or functional shift.
  • Zero derivation happens when you create a word (eg. a noun) from another word (eg. a verb) without changing its form.
  • Adjectives can be made into nouns, nouns into adjectives, nouns or adjectives into verbs etc.
  • Verbification has produced many new words for everyday use.
  • Sometimes a verbified form can have a prepositional particle, eg, elbow someone out of the way.
  • Verbification also occurs in social media terms; for example: google it; skype me etc.

Frequently Asked Questions about Zero-Derivation

Verbification happens when an adjective, noun or non-verb is converted to a verb (eg. the adjective ‘dirty’ becomes the verb ‘to dirty’).

Zero derivation happens when you create a word (eg. a noun) from another word (eg. a verb) without changing its form.

In linguistics, zero is a segment that is not pronounced or written. It is usually written as "∅".

Conversion is another name for zero derivation.

Final Zero-Derivation Quiz

Question

What is zero derivation?

Show answer

Answer

Zero derivation happens when you create a word(eg. a noun) from another word (e.g. a verb)without changing its form.

Show question

Question

What are other names for zero derivation?

Show answer

Answer

Zero derivation is also called null derivation, conversion, or functional shift.

Show question

Question

True or false?


Adjectives can be made into nouns but nouns cannot be made into adjectives.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Zero-derivation is also known as __________ shift.

Show answer

Answer

functional 

Show question

Question

What is verbification?


Show answer

Answer

Verbification happens when you convert any adjective, noun or non-verb to a verb.

Show question

Question

True or false?


A zero article is an unrealized indefinite or definite article in some languages, such as the plural indefinite article in English.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

What is a zero morpheme?


Show answer

Answer

A zero morpheme is when a word changes its meaning but does not change its form.

Show question

Question

Complete the following: ‘The word ‘sheep’ is an example of …’


Show answer

Answer

‘The word ‘sheep’ is an example of a zero morpheme.'

Show question

Question

Give some examples of verbification.

Show answer

Answer

 Mail, email, talk, salt, pepper, sleep, ship, train, stop, drink, etc.


Show question

Question

Complete the following: Thousands of words have been formed by using ..., and the category is in constant ...


Show answer

Answer

Thousands of words have been formed by using 

verbification, and the category is in constant expansion.

Show question

Question

True of false? ‘To gift is not a proper verb, it’s just slang from TV!’ 


Show answer

Answer

False: ‘to gift’ is an old verb that fell out of use and has made a come-back.


Show question

Question

Give some examples of verbification in social media terms.

Show answer

Answer

 For example, ‘I will google it’, ‘let’s skype next week’, ‘you can whatsapp me on this number’, etc.

Show question

Question

Zero-derivation is also known as __________.

Show answer

Answer

conversion

Show question

Question

Zero-derivation originated as a term in the _____.

Show answer

Answer

1960s

Show question

Question

A zero article is ___________ indefinite or definite article.

Show answer

Answer

an unspoken

Show question

Question

What is the smallest unit of meaning in language?

Show answer

Answer

A morpheme

Show question

Question

Which variant of a morpheme changes the sound and spelling without changing its basic meaning?

Show answer

Answer

An allomorph

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Verbification happens when an adjective, noun or non-verb is converted to a ____. 

Show answer

Answer

verb

Show question

Question

True or false?


Verbification has been criticised by some who believe it produces too many neologisms and slang expressions.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


In phoneticsa null phoneme or zero phone indicates that no _____ is produced where one might be expected. 

Show answer

Answer

phone

Show question

Question

Zero is usually written as which symbol?

Show answer

Answer

Show question

Question

The verb 'gift' has been around for ___ years

Show answer

Answer

400

Show question

Question

True or false?


Verbification is sometimes used to create joking words

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Neologism comes from the Greek νέο and λόγος, meaning what?

Show answer

Answer

New speech

Show question

Question

Fill in the blanks:


A zero morpheme is when a word changes its _______ but does not change its ____.

Show answer

Answer

meaning, form 

Show question

60%

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