Conversion (linguistics)

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The term conversion (also: zero dissipation , Nullderivation ) referred to in the linguistic word education teach a type of word formation in which a stem or a inflected word without changing the shape to a new part of speech is transmitted ( " Wortartwechsel without word formation elements").

Morphological conversion

Examples of part of speech changes of the stem without further change of form
Noun ↔ verb
Oil - oil
Verb ↔ noun
meet {en} - (the) meeting
Adjective ↔ verb
loose - loose {n}
Noun ↔ adjective
(the) serious - serious
Adjective ↔ noun
red - (the) red
french - (the) French

If the part of speech of the stem is changed without any further change in form, some authors also speak of morphological conversion or paradigmatic conversion . A strict criterion of simplicity is assumed: morphological conversion is restricted to simple bases, i. In other words , only stems that do not have a derivative affix (such as -ung , -heit , -keit etc.) can be used as a basis.

Syntactic conversion

Examples of word type changes in an inflected word
Verb in the infinitive → noun
live - (the) life
Adjective → noun
good - (the / the / the) good (weak), a good / a good / a good (strong)
better - (the / the / the) better (weak), a better / a better / a better (strong)
(best) best - (the) best (weak), a best / a best (strong)
Verb in the participle I → noun
decisive - (the / the / the) decisive
Verb in the past participle → adjective
deleted - deleted

When an inflected word changes part of speech, some authors assign this not to morphology , but to syntax . Accordingly, this is then also referred to as syntactic conversion .

In German, the participles can generally be treated as a special case of the adjectives, so the last example would not be a conversion.

Since nouns in German cannot normally be increased and the gender can only change with additional morphemes, often the suffix { -in }, the treatment of the corresponding conversions as word formation products is problematic, and although they can assume a largely independent meaning, this remains transparent unidirectional derivation of nouns from adjectives is always possible. The same applies for the substantiation of the verbs without Endmorph { -ung }. Unlike most morphological conversions, both variants are productive at the same time. Eisenberg identifies the principle of “end station noun” in the syntactic conversion: Verbs and adjectives can be used as nouns (e.g. drivedrive , good(the / the) good) , verbs can be used as Adjectives and thus also used as nouns ( choosechosen(the / the / the) chosen) ; however, there are no other possible uses.

Broader Conversion - Implicit Derivation

Examples of word type changes with ablaut or umlaut in the stem
w e rf {s} - W u rf
fl ie g {en} - Fl u g
S au m - s äu m {en}

Some authors define conversion less restrictively as a change of part of speech of a stem without the help of an affix . Correspondingly, in addition to the above cases, changes of speech with a change in the stem vowel are also regarded as conversions. Other authors, however, refer to these cases as implicit derivation .


  • Peter Eisenberg : Outline of the German grammar . 3. Edition. tape 1 : The word. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2006, ISBN 3-476-02160-2 , 7.3 Conversion, p. 294-300 .
  • Andreas C. Hofmann: On the concepts of the feature-free change of word type and the regression in German and English in comparison. Stud.arb. Munich 2004, appears in: GOEDOC. Document server of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, langzeitarch. at Open Access LMU,
  • Wolfgang Fleischer: The classification of word formation processes . In: Booij et al. (Ed.): Morphology. An international handbook on inflection and word formation (=  handbooks on linguistics and communication studies ). 1st half volume, no. 17 . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, p. 886-897 ( code : HSK 17.1).
  • Susan Olsen: Word formation in German . Kröner, Stuttgart 1986.

Web links

Wiktionary: Conversion  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: zero derivation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Naumann 1986: 23, cited in Eisenberg 2006: 295
  2. a b c Flexion morphs are enclosed in curly brackets, articles are given in brackets for better understanding
  3. see e.g. B. Eisenberg 2006: 297ff, similar: Fleischer 2000: 894
  4. see e.g. B. Olsen 1986: 112
  5. Eisenberg 2006: 296f
  6. see e.g. B. Eisenberg 2006: 295, Fleischer 2000: 893