Archive for the ‘Syntactic functions’ Category

Adverb and Adverbial

November 7, 2014

While I was preparing a posting on xkcd‘s “Language Nerd” strip — I think very slowly and write even more slowly — my Language Log colleagues Geoff Pullum and Mark Liberman zipped into gear on the way language nerd is used in the strip in the expression (1), an instance of the construction in (2):

(1) to go all language nerd on you

(2) to go (all) X (on s.o.)

In my posting I referred, rather too hastily, to

the construction in go (all) X (on s.o.), where X is a nominal — here, a N + N compound (language nerd, sentence fragment) — converted to an adverbial in construction with the verb go

The problem is my use of converted, suggesting that language nerd (also sentence fragment) is converted from one syntactic category (or “part of speech”) to another, as in other examples in the strip, which involve true conversion, specifically the verbing of nouns. But what’s going on in (1) (and more generally in (2)) is not conversion, but the use of expressions of one syntactic category (here, a N-headed expression) in a syntactic function characteristic of a different category: in this case, not conversion of N to Adverb, but use of N in the syntactic function Adverbial, specifically the Adverbial subtype Modifier-of-V.

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