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From Noun to Evaluative Adjective: Conversion or Debonding? Dutch Top and Its Equivalents in German

  • Kristel Van Goethem (a1) and Matthias Hüning (a2)


In this study, we address the ways in which nouns can give rise to new adjectives in Dutch and German. More specifically, the focus is on words with an evaluative meaning that can be used in a wide range of morphological and syntactic constructions in recent (and informal) language. For example, the German noun Hammer ‘hammer’ can be used in Hammervorstellung ‘very good performance’ or hammer film ‘fantastic film’. In the literature, two distinct hypotheses can be found to account for the adjectival uses of such evaluative nouns. The debonding hypothesis states that the intensifying bound morpheme has developed into a free morpheme. The conversion hypothesis suggests that the new adjectival uses are the result of a syntactic reanalysis of an N as an A that takes place in the predicative position. In our case study, we analyze the synchronic bound and free uses of Dutch top, and we compare them with German top and spitze. We conclude that the emergence of the adjectival uses of these morphemes points toward an interaction between both processes involved, conversion and debonding.


Corresponding author

Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique (F.R.S.-FNRS), Université catholique de Louvain, Institut Langage et Communication, Pôle Linguistique Centre de recherche Valibel — Discours et Variation, Place Blaise Pascal 1, Box L3.03.33, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, []
Institut für Deutsche und Niederländische Philologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin, Germany, []


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From Noun to Evaluative Adjective: Conversion or Debonding? Dutch Top and Its Equivalents in German

  • Kristel Van Goethem (a1) and Matthias Hüning (a2)


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