Talmy Givón

Nominalization and re-finitization


The logical (set-theoretical) relation between Nominalization and Non-finiteness has been given variously as full identity or partial overlap. In this paper I will suggest that it is more like an inclusion relation, with nominalized clauses being one important type of reduced finiteness. I will then suggest that Nominalization is better understood as a property of the whole clause rather than of just the verb; and that finiteness is a scalar rather than discrete phenomenon.

I will next survey three extreme typological points: (i) languages in which subordinate clauses can be either finite or nominalized (English); (ii) languages in which all clause-types, including subordinate clauses, are finite (Tolowa Athabaskan); and (iii) languages in which all subordinate clauses are nominalized (Ute). In the last part of the paper, I will discuss some possible diachronic pathways by which subordinate clauses in languages of type (iii) can re-aquire finite structure, and thus revert toward type (i) or (ii). An underlying theme running through the paper is that synchronic typology is not very meaningful unless viewed from a diachronic perspective.