From denominal to deverbal

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This paper deals with one of the rival French suffixes which now form abstract nouns from verbs in English, as in recite/recital. Such formatives are often seen as semantically interchangeable, forming nouns with the core meaning ‘action/fact of V-ing.’ However, it can be argued that from their earliest appearance in English these suffixes began to select characteristically from a nexus of common meanings, both in the kinds of bases to which each suffix was attached, and in the kinds of contexts in which the formations tended to appear. This paper will suggest that deverbal derivatives in -al with action senses did not appear substantially until the seventeenth century, when a specialised meaning of ‘completed action’ possibly began to be favoured.


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