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1.3.2. Deadjectival nouns

This section discusses the formation of deadjectival nouns: Subsection I is concerned with the form and meaning of the derived noun, Subsection II continues by discussing the relation between the derived nouns and the input adjective, Subsection III discusses the restrictions on the derivational process and Subsection IV concludes with a summary.

[+]  I.  Form and meaning of the derived noun

This subsection addresses the form and the meaning of the deadjectival nouns, beginning with the former.

[+]  A.  Form of the deadjectival noun

Not only verbs, but also adjectives can form the basis of derived nouns. This form of nominalization is usually achieved through suffixation, whereby some suffixes are (more or lesss) fully productive, while others are nonproductive. The most important of these suffixes are given in Table 18. As is shown in this table, a distinction must be made between derived nouns denoting -human entities and derived nouns with +human denotations. Since, generally speaking, only derived nouns of the former category can (or must) select for one or more complements, we will only be concerned with derived adjectives of this type.

Table 18: Deadjectival nouns
  suffix adjectival stem derived form
[-human] +productive -(ig)heid naar‘nasty’ narigheid‘trouble’
      zwak‘weak’ zwakheid‘weakness’
    -iteit spontaan‘spontaneous’ spontaniteit‘spontaneity’
      subtiel‘subtle’ subtiliteit‘subtlety’
    -te/-de hoog‘high’ hoogte‘height’
      schaars‘scarce’ schaarste‘scarcity’
  -productive -dom rijk‘rich’ rijkdom‘wealth’
      oud‘old’ ouderdom‘old age’
    -nij lekker‘tasty’ lekkernij‘delicacy’
      woest‘savage’ woestenij‘wilderness’
    -nis duister‘dark’ duisternis‘darkness’
      droef‘sad’ droefenis‘sadness’
    -schap blij‘happy’ blijdschap‘gladness’
      zwanger‘pregnant’ zwangerschap‘pregnancy’
[+human] +productive -erd/aard bang‘afraid’ bangerd‘coward’
      lui‘lazy’ luiaard‘sluggard’
    -erik bang‘afraid’ bangerik‘coward’
      vies‘dirty’ viezerik‘slob’
  -productive -eling jong‘young’ jongeling‘youngster’

The category of derived nouns ending in -igheid includes only nouns that do not have an adjectival counterpart ending in -ig. For example, the noun zoetigheid'sweet' is probably derived from the adjective zoetig, which is itself derived from the adjective zoet'sweet' by means of the productive -ig ending with the meaning “rather/more or lesss A”. In cases such as zuinigheid'thrift' the noun is derived by means of the suffix -heid from the monomorphemic stem zuinig'thrifty' (cf. * zuin). The category referred to here consists of nouns like flauwigheid'poor joke', slimmigheid'trick/clever move' and stommigheid'folly' that can be assumed to be derived directly from such adjectives as slim, naar and stom, as these do not readily accept the -ig ending: ? slimmig, * narig, ?? stommig; cf. Haeseryn et al. (1997: 671) and De Haas & Trommelen (1993: 248/9; 302). Nouns ending in -igheid generally have a somewhat negative evaluative meaning, are largely lexicalized and are typical of spoken language.
      In addition to the endings in Table 18, there are a number of less frequent and nonproductive endings. Examples are given in (212) for the endings -er/aar and -tje, respectively.

Example 212
Deadjectival nouns ending in -er/ -aar and -tje
suffix adjectival stem derived noun
-er/-aar eigen‘own’ eigenaar‘owner’
  vrijwillig‘voluntary’ vrijwilliger‘volunteer’
-tje blauw‘blue’ een blauwtje lopen‘to be turned down’
  geel‘yellow’ geeltje‘25-guilder bill’
  groen‘green’ groentje‘novice’
  groot‘big’ grootje‘granny’
  klein‘small/little’ kleintje‘child’

      The examples in (213) illustrate the more or lesss productive process according to which the inflected form of an attributive adjective, preceded by the definite or indefinite article, can be used as a full noun phrase. This process, which is sometimes referred to as nominalization (e.g., Haeseryn et al. 1997), can derive both -human and +human nouns: in the former case the noun is preceded by the definite neuter article het'the', as illustrated in the (a)-examples; in the latter case the noun is preceded by the definite non-neuter article de'the', as shown in (213b).

Example 213
a. het aardige/bijzondere/mooie (van het geval)
  the  nice/special/beautiful/difficult   of the case
  'the nice/the special/the good/the difficult thing (about the case)'
a'. het kwade/het goede
  the evil/the good
b. de/een dakloze/blinde/zieke/geleerde
  the/a  homeless/blind/ill/learned
  'the/a homeless/blind/ill/learned person'

It is, however, not uncontroversial that we are dealing with nominalizations in (213). An alternative analysis, which will be adopted here, is one according to which these constructions contain a phonetically empty nominal head; cf. Kester (1996). This means that we are dealing with an attributively used adjective followed by an empty noun, and for this reason these constructions are discussed in Section A5.4.

[+]  B.  Meaning of the -human deadjectival noun

Deadjectival -human nouns are productively derived by means of the suffixes -heid, -iteit, and -te/-de. Haeseryn et al. (1997: 671) paraphrases the meaning of nouns ending in -heid as: het + adjective + zijn'being + adjective'. A noun phrase like Maries nauwkeurigheid in (214) is therefore supposed to refer to the state of Marie being accurate, and the sentence as a whole expresses that the act of saving Jan is predicated of this state. Since the function and meaning of the ending -iteit is similar to that of -heid (the difference between the two being that -iteit attaches to loanwords), the derived noun spontaniteit'spontaneity' would denote the state of being spontaneous. Haeseryn et al. (1997: 680), finally, claims that nouns formed by means of the ending -te/-de have a meaning comparable to those ending in -heid and -iteit; with a word like schaarste'scarcity' denoting the state of being scarce.

Example 214
Maries nauwkeurigheid heeft Jan gered.
  Marieʼs accuracy  has  Jan  saved

A more detailed examination of the data proves such paraphrases to be unsatisfactory. Since adjectives do not denote states but properties, which are typically assigned to some entity, we may expect that deadjectival nouns denote properties as well, albeit that now the intention is to predicate something about them. Under this view, the noun phrase Maries nauwkeurigheid in (214) does not refer to a state of Marie being accurate, but to the property denoted by nauwkeurig'accurate', which is said to be true of Marie; cf. Chomsky (1970: 213) and Keizer (1992b). Accordingly, example (214) does not express that it is the state of Marie being accurate that has saved Jan, but the fact that the property of being accurate applies to Marie. Similarly, in (215) it is not claimed that Janʼs being lazy has no limits, but rather that the property laziness, as assigned to Jan, has no limits.

Example 215
Jans luiheid kent geen grenzen.
  Janʼs laziness  has  no limits

      In (214) and (215) the difference between the two approaches may seem to be subtle, but it becomes clearer when we look at adjectives denoting physical properties. Obviously, a derived noun like hoogte'height' in (216) does not denote the state of being high; as a matter of fact, the tower may not be high at all, which is due to the fact that the noun hoogte is derived from the neutral form of the measure adjective hoog'high'; cf. Section A3.1.4. Instead, hoogte denotes a (measurable) property of a concrete entity. In other words, (216) does not claim that the fact that the tower has a certain height is impressive; it is rather the actual height of the tower that is impressive.

Example 216
De hoogte van de toren is indrukwekkend.
  the height of the tower  is impressive

In sum, we can conclude that whereas deverbal nouns denote states of affairs (including states), deadjectival nouns denote properties.
      Some deadjectival nouns are ambiguous between an abstract and a concrete reading. Examples are given in (217), with the primeless examples illustrating the abstract and the primed examples illustrating the concrete reading. The concrete nouns have entirely lexicalized.

Example 217
a. Zijn slordigheid is erg irritant.
  his slovenliness  is very annoying
a'. Zijn tekst zat nog vol slordigheden.
  his text  sat  still  full  inaccuracies
  'His text was still full of careless mistakes.'
b. De zoetigheid van dat spul is opmerkelijk.
  the sweetness of that stuff  is remarkable
b'. Jan is dol op zoetigheid.
  Jan  is fond  of sweets
c. ?? Wat opvalt aan Jan is zijn aardigheid.
  what  strikes  to Jan  is his nice-ness
  'What strikes one about Jan is his kindness/humor.'
c'. Jan bracht een aardigheidje voor me mee.
  Jan  brought  a nice-nessdim  for me  prt.
  'Jan brought me a small present.'

In some cases, the ambiguity is not between an abstract and a concrete interpretation, but between two abstract ones. Thus, deadjectival nouns like zekerheid'certain-ness' can be used either to refer to the property zeker'certain', as in Peters zekerheid is nogal irritant'Peterʼs certainty/confidence is rather irritating' or to abstract entities that have the property certain, as in Er zijn weinig zekerheden in het leven'Life doesnʼt have many certainties', where the noun in question has become lexicalized.
      Finally, there are deadjectival nouns that only allow a lexicalized reading. The noun liefde'love', as used in Jans liefde (voor de taalkunde)'Janʼs love (of linguistics)' does not refer to the property lief'sweet' as assigned to Jan, but to the love Jan feels for someone/something else; as such, its argument structure differs from that of the adjective lief. Likewise, a noun like verworvenheid'achievement' can only be used to refer to the things achieved, not to a property of these things. It will be clear that in those cases in which the derived noun is lexicalized, it no longer shares the argument structure with the original adjective but has become avalent (like a basic noun) or may even have its own argument (like a relational noun).

[+]  II.  Relation to the base adjective

As with deverbal nouns, deadjectival nouns can be said to inherit the argument structure of the base adjective. That adjectives have an argument structure follows directly from the fact that they have a predicative function: both in their attributive and in their predicative use, adjectives assign a property to the referent of a noun phrase. An adjective like hoog assigns the property of “being high” to the referent of the argument it is predicated of or attributed to, as (de) toren'the tower' in de toren is hoog'the tower is high' or de hoge toren'the high tower'. We will assume that this argument is assigned the semantic role “Ref”. As indicated in (218), a deadjectival noun like hoogte'height' inherits this semantic role from the input adjective, which means that the denotation of the resulting noun is dependent on the presence of some other noun. Once again, we find here the ambivalence typical of nominalized elements: although the derived noun hoogte'height' has a referring function, its denotation (a property) still requires that the semantic role Ref be assigned to some other entity like de toren'the tower' in (218b).

Example 218
Nouns derived from a monadic adjective
a. hoogteN (Ref)
b. de hoogte van de toren
  the height  of the tower

Observe that the argument of the deadjectival noun typically appears as a PP headed by the functional preposition van. Alternatively, the argument may appear prenominally as a genitive noun phrase or a possessive pronoun, as in Jans/zijn verlegenheid'Janʼs/his shyness'; see Section 2.2.4 for a more detailed discussion of the form and position of the complements).
      Most adjectives, and consequently most deadjectival nouns, have only a single argument slot, which is filled by the entity to which the property denoted by the adjective is assigned. In some cases, however, adjectives have a second argument. Structurally, such adjectives bear a close resemblance to transitive verbs (from which they are sometimes derived): they have both a complement, and an argument they are predicated of. An example of such a (deverbal) adjective is ingenomen'pleased' in (219), which takes a met-PP as its complement: Jan is ingenomen met het resultaat'Jan is pleased with the result'. Example (219b) shows that the complement of the adjective is inherited by the deadjectival noun ingenomenheid'satisfaction'. For the sake of convenience, and by analogy with the verbal domain, we will use the label theme to identify the role of the complement.

Example 219
Nouns derived from a dyadic adjective
a. ingenomenheidN (Ref, Theme)
b. Jans ingenomenheid met het resultaat
  Janʼs  satisfaction  with the result

Other examples that show that the preposition selected by the base adjective is also the one selected by the derived noun are given in (220).

Example 220
a. nieuwsgierig naar ... 'curious about ...'
a'. nieuwsgierigheid naar … 'curiosity about'
b. bereid tot ... 'willing to ...'
b'. bereidheid tot ... 'willingness to ...'
c. blind voor ... 'blind to ...'
c'. blindheid voor ... 'blindness to ...'

      There is a small set of adjectives that, apart from the (obligatory) external argument, take two complements. An example of such a triadic adjective is boos, which may (optionally) take an op-PP and an over-PP as its complements: Jan is boos op Peter over die opmerking'Jan is angry with Peter about that remark'. As might be expected, all three arguments are inherited by the derived noun boosheid'anger', with the complements appearing in the same form. For concreteness, we assume that the over-PP is given the thematic role of source.

Example 221
Nouns derived from a triadic adjective
a. boosheidN (Ref, Theme, Source)
b. Jans boosheid op Peter over die opmerking
  Jans anger  with Peter  about that remark
[+]  III.  Restrictions on the derivational process

As can be seen in Table 18 above, the only productive endings in the nominalization process are -(ig)heid, -iteit and -te. This does not mean, however, that by means of these endings all adjectives can be converted into nouns: nominalization is restricted in several ways.

[+]  A.  The affix is not entirely predictable

It is not always predictable which of the endings will be used, and in those cases where two endings can be used, it seems impossible to account for the difference in affixation in a systematic way. Thus, as regards their meaning, deadjectival nouns ending in -te/-de are comparable to those ending in -heid: what is denoted by the derived nouns is the property denoted by their adjectival base. Yet, this does not account for the fact that sometimes both forms are possible, as in the cases in (222). In some cases, one of the two forms has at least one lexicalized meaning; examples are gekte'craze/hype', grootheid'variable/celebrity'. Often, however, the two forms can be regarded as near-synonyms, despite the fact that they may be used in different contexts.

Example 222
a. zwak 'weak'
a'. zwakheid/zwakte 'weakness'
b. gek 'crazy/funny'
b'. gekheid'jest'/gekte'craze/hype'
c. groot 'big'
c'. grootheid'variable'/grootte'size'
d. vol 'full'
d'. volheid/volte 'fullness'
e. koel 'cool'
e'. koelheid'(emotional) coldness'/koelte'coolness'
f. leeg 'empty'
f'. leegheid/leegte 'emptiness'

Similarly, the choice between the endings -heid and -iteit is not always self-evident. Whereas usually -iteit is restricted to non-Germanic adjectives ( naïviteit'naivety', subtiliteit'subtlety', uniformiteit'uniformity', genialiteit'genius', spontaniteit'spontaneity'), Germanic adjectives may, occasionally, also take this ending, as shown by the existence of the deadjectival nouns stommiteit'stupidity/folly' and flauwiteit'silly remark', which are derived from Dutch base adjectives.

[+]  B.  The input adjective must be set-denoting

Only the set-denoting adjectives can readily be used as input for nominalization; relational, evaluative and modal adjectives are more difficult to nominalized; see Table 19. That nouns like Italiaansheid are at least marginally possible (as is clear from the fact that they occasionally occur on the internet) is due to the fact that relational adjectives like Italiaans'Italian' may shift in the direction of the set-denoting adjectives, as is clear from the fact that they can occur as predicates in copular constructions if preceded by the modifier typisch'typically': Dit gedrag is typisch Italiaans'This behavior is typically Italian'. Another clear example is regelmatig, which in some cases can be readily used as the predicate of a copular construction; see Section A1.3.3 for more discussion.

Example 223
a. Zijn ademhaling is regelmatig.
  his breathing  is regular
b. de regelmatigheid van zijn ademhaling
  the regularity  of his breathing
Table 19: Input restrictions on deadjectival nominalization
  input adjective translation derived noun
set-denoting adjective vriendelijk kind vriendelijkheid
  zwak weak zwakheid/zwakte
  breed wide breedte
relational adjective Italiaans Italian ??Italiaansheid
  freudiaans Freudian ??freudiaansheid
  dagelijks daily ??dagelijksheid
  dadelijk immediate *dadelijkheid
  voormalig former *voormaligheid
  houten wooden *houtenheid
  adellijk noble ??adellijkheid (but: adeldom)
  cultureel cultural *cultureelheid
evaluative adjective deksels confounded *dekselsheid
  drommels cursed *drommelheid
  verrekt damnʼd *verrektheid
modal adjective vermeend alleged *vermeendheid
  eventueel possible *eventueliteit/#eventualiteit
  duidelijk obvious #duidelijkheid

[+]  C.  The input adjective may not take a nominal complement

The examples in (224) and (225) show that adjectives with genitive and dative complements cannot be readily nominalized.

Example 224
Nouns derived from adjectives taking a genitive NP-complement
a. zich iets bewust zijn
  to be aware of something
a'. * de zich bewustheid van iets
b. iets gewend zijn
  to be used to something
b'. * de gewendheid van iets
c. iets gewoon zijn
  to be used to something
c'. * de gewoonheid van iets
d. iets indachtig zijn
  to be mindful of something
d'. * de indachtigheid van iets
e. iets moe/zat/beu zijn
  to be tired of/fed up with something
e'. * de moeheid/zatheid/beuheid van iets
f. iets machtig zijn
  to have command of something
f'. * de machtigheid van iets
Example 225
Nouns derived from adjectives taking a dative NP-complement
a. iemand aangeboren zijn
  to be innate to someone
a'. * de aangeborenheid aan iemand
b. iemand bespaard zijn
  to be spared to someone
b'. * de bespaardheid aan iemand
c. iemand duidelijk zijn
  to be clear to someone
c'. * de duidelijkheid aan iemand
d. iemand goedgezind zijn
  to be well disposed to someone
d'. * de goedgezindheid aan iemand
e. iemand bekend zijn
  to be known to someone
e'. * de bekendheid aan iemand
f. iemand trouw zijn
  to be dedicated to someone
f'. * de trouwheid aan iemand
g. iemand vreemd zijn
  to be unknown to someone
g'. * de vreemdheid aan iemand
h. iemand vertrouwd zijn
  to be familiar to someone
h'. * de vertrouwdheid aan iemand

For some of these adjectives in (224) and (225), it is actually rather surprising that they cannot be the input for nominalization, given that they may also occur with a PP-complement instead of an NP-complement. This is illustrated for some of the above examples in (226).

Example 226
a. zich bewust zijn van iets
  to be aware of something
a'. * de zich bewustheid van iets
b. moe/zat/beu zijn van iets
  to be tired of/fed up with something
b'. * de moeheid/zatheid/beuheid van iets
c. trouw zijn aan iemand
  to be dedicated to someone
c'. * de trouwheid aan iemand

In some cases the derived noun is acceptable if used without the NP-complement. This is especially the case with deadjectival nouns derived from adjectives that optionally take a dative complement.

Example 227
a. De gevolgen zijn (haar) bekend/duidelijk.
  the consequences  are   her  known/clear
  'Sheʼs familiar with the consequences.'
a'. de bekendheid/duidelijkheid van de gevolgen (*aan haar)
  the known-ness/clearness  of the consequences      to her
b. Peter is (zijn werk) toegewijd.
  Peter is  his work  devoted
  'Peter is devoted to his work.'
b'. Peters toegewijdheid (*aan zijn werk)
  Peterʼs devotedness     to his work
c. Deze omgeving is (Jan) vertrouwd.
  this environment  is  Jan  familiar
  'Jan knows these surroundings.'
c'. de vertrouwdheid van deze omgeving (*aan Jan)
  the familiarity  of this environment     to Jan

For more details concerning the (im)possibilities of complementation of deadjectival nouns, see Section 2.2.4.

[+]  D.  Isolated cases

There are quite a large number of set-denoting adjectives that accept none of the endings -(ig)heid, -iteit and -te, without there being a common feature accounting for this fact. Some examples are given in (228). The impossibility of examples like (228d') or (228e') could perhaps be accounted for by appealing to blocking since the lexicon already contains a synonym (respectively leeftijd/ouderdom'age/old age' and jeugd/jeugdigheid'youth/youthfulness'), but in other cases no explanation seems to be available.

Example 228
a. dood 'dead'
a'. *doodheid/*doodte
b. levend 'alive'
b'. *levendheid/*levendte
c. gewond 'wounded'
c'. *gewondheid/*gewondte
d. oud 'old'
d'. #oudheid/*oudte
e. jong 'young'
e'. *jongheid/*jongte
f. kapot 'broken'
f'. *kapotheid
g. jarig 'celebrating/oneʼs birthday'
g'. *jarigheid
[+]  IV.  Conclusion

Like deverbal nouns, deadjectival nouns largely exhibit the syntactic behavior of typical nouns. Thus, they have lost most of the characteristics of adjectives. For example, they can no longer be inflected; it is always the uninflected form that is input to the nominalization process and the derived noun as a whole cannot take an adjectival ending. Similarly, modification by means of intensifiers is no longer possible, and it is no longer possible to express degrees of comparison. Illustrations of these facts can be found in (229).

Example 229
a. zwak(*ke)heid; zwakheid(*e)
b. * erg zwakheid; *nogal zwakheid
  very weakness; rather weakness
c. * zwakkerheid; *zwakstheid
  weakerness; weakestness

On the other hand, the examples in (230) show that these derived nouns possess all the typical features of nouns: they can be definite or indefinite; they allow adjectival modification, post-modification by a van-PP and premodification by a genitive noun phrase or possessive pronoun; they can be quantified, questioned and relativized; finally, on a concrete or lexicalized reading, pluralization is possible.

Example 230
a. een/de grote zwakheid (van de mens)
  a/the  big weakness   of the human
  'a/the big weakness (of man)'
b. zijn/Jans/elke/welke zwakheid
  his/Janʼs/each/which  weakness
c. alle zwakheden die de mens kenmerken
  all weaknesses  that the human  characterize
  'all weaknesses characterizing man'

If we translate this in terms of the categorial status of the different types of deadjectival nouns, we may say that, apart from the inheritance of the arguments of the base adjective (including number, thematic role and optionality of these arguments), deadjectival nouns simply seem to behave as full nouns. Table 20 gives an overview of the relevant features.

Table 20 Adjectival and nominal characteristics of deadjectival nouns
adjectival properties presence of arguments yes
  modification by intensifiers no
  inflection no
  degrees of comparison expressed no
  subject realized as noun phrase no
  genitive/dative NP-complements no
  pre-head position of PP-complements no
nominal properties adjectival modification yes
  subject realized as genitive noun phrase or van-PP yes
  postnominal position of PP-complements yes
  definiteness yes
  indefiniteness yes
  quantification/relativization yes
  pluralization yes/no

  • Chomsky, Noam1970Remarks on nominalizationJacobs, R.A. & Rosenbaum, P.S. (eds.)Readings in English Transformational GrammarWaltham, MAGinn184-221
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Haeseryn, Walter, Romijn, Kirsten, Geerts, Guido, Rooij, Jaap de & Toorn, Maarten C. van den1997Algemene Nederlandse spraakkunstGroningenNijhoff
  • Keizer, Evelien1992Predicates as referring expressionsFortescue, Michael, Harder, Peter & Kristoffersen, Lars (eds.)Layered structure and reference in a functional perspectiveDordrechtForis Publications
  • Kester, Ellen-Petra1996The nature of adjectival inflectionUtrechtUniversity of UtrechtThesis
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