I am not a native English speaker. I am working on a computer program whose purpose is to recognize whether an English word is a "nominalizations" or not.

I have consulted Wikipedia and other resources. Is the following method, to identify if a word is a nominalization, correct?

  • See if the word is a noun. If it is a noun, check if it ends with "ment", "ation", "ing" or "ance". If it ends with any of these, then it's a nominalization otherwise it is not.

Do you think that approach is correct? If not, can you kindly point out how should I go about it? Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    No, that's a useless approach. Check out this Wikipedia page, where you'll find, for example, applicability (apply, applicable) and carelessness (care, careless). Plus many other morphological inflections - plus, as Wikipedia points out, there are "zero-derivatives" (I need a change, The murder was tragic).* – FumbleFingers May 25 '19 at 17:18
  • Thank you for sharing this. Is there any way I can correct my approach? – Waqas Younas May 26 '19 at 7:19
  • Well, my understanding is computer scientists have been working on automated text recognition / interpretation for many decades. And until about 10-15 years ago they all assumed they needed help from linguists & other language experts, to incorporate programmed "rules" into their systems (which is what you seem to be trying to do). But actually, they were really getting nowhere until they switched over to just using neural net-based AI systems with minimal "expert guidance". So my advice would be - learn how to build neural nets! :) – FumbleFingers May 26 '19 at 15:59
  • ...you could try programming every different morphological rule involved in changing verb forms to nouns. But I think it would be a bit of a nightmare, with so many exceptions that you'd almost end up with a lookup table entry for every "derived noun". It's not like you can just download a list of all possible base verb forms to incorporate into the classifier anyway (and you'd still have to associate each verb with possibly multiple morphological rules whereby you can generate nouns from that verb). A tall order indeed. – FumbleFingers May 26 '19 at 16:07
  • Thank you so much for your insights. – Waqas Younas May 27 '19 at 10:51

Agreeing with @FumbleFingers that your approach is mistaken. Aside from what he says, there is also the problem that a nominalization is not a noun, but rather a noun phrase (NP). A NP is a constituent which can be the argument of a verb or object of a preposition, or perhaps a few other things. The head of a NP is often a noun, but not always -- it can also be a complementizer, as for example the "that" in "That she attended surprised us", in which the clause "She attended" has been nominalized by adding "that" to create the nominalization "that she attended".

English has a large variety of nominalizations.

  • I assume that this is as per McCawley. Are there other definitions? – Edwin Ashworth May 25 '19 at 18:57
  • @EdwinAshworth, I was not offering a definition. I don't know what definitions of "nominalization" might be offered by others. – Greg Lee May 25 '19 at 19:11
  • Thanks for sharing this. If, for now, I ignore noun phrases and just go after nouns do you think it's a valid approach to find nouns that end with "ity", "ment", "ation", "ing" or "ance" and call them nominalization? – Waqas Younas May 26 '19 at 7:22
  • @Waqas I think you've come up against a very common problem found in many areas of English: a term is used differently by different authorities / institutions. Wikipedia and Dictionary.com at least begins to address the situation here. There is, first of all, the count, instantiation usage (itemisation is a nominalisation) versus the 'process' usage (itemisation exemplifies the type of conversion known as nominalisation). Then there is Do we broaden the definition of nominalisation so as to include say 'that she attended'? ... My ... – Edwin Ashworth May 26 '19 at 12:45
  • advice is that you choose the definition/s you require, making sure you don't choose conflicting ones (I'd say 'itemisation is a nominalisation' and 'itemisation exemplifies the type of conversion known as nominalisation' can be used in the same article etc) but make sure you well-define your chosen sense/s. – Edwin Ashworth May 26 '19 at 12:48

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.