last changed in 2010

Notation: V:N (2010 abbreviation: N,V,g

A gerund is a verb with the suffix -ing, which combines the characteristics of both nouns and verbs in a particularly interesting way. As a dependent, it is a noun; but as a phrase-head, it is a verb. (1) illustrates this possibility:

(1) I enjoy not buying books often.

The object of ENJOY is normally a noun, and (apart from gerunds) there is no reason to believe any other kind of complement is possible.

(2) I enjoy dancing/*to dance/*that I'm dancing.

Therefore buying must be a noun in (1). On the other hand, there are equally good reasons why buying must be a verb - the object noun books, the preceding not and the adverb often are all typical dependents of a verb, and not of a noun. None of them is possible with a clear noun such as purchase in (3).

(3) I enjoy the (*not) purchase *(of) books (*often).

However, the noun and verb qualities apply to distinct parts of its use: noun qualities to its use as a dependent, and verb qualities to its use as head of its phrase.

The present WG analysis (which is different from the one in Hudson 1990, pp 316-26) recognises the gerund - buying in (1) - as both noun and verb. More specifically, it recognises an inflection Gerund which isa Noun and which also isa Verb. This classification distinguishes its qualities as dependent and as parent in the desired way just because dependents may be specified as simply 'noun' but never as 'verb', and conversely parents may be specified as simply 'verb' but never simply as 'noun'.

e.g. *The winning the race was gratifying. The only complication in this neat picture is that gerunds may have a possessive pronoun as subject instead of the expected non-possessive. This can be allowed by exceptionally allowing possessives (in this case 's) to take a gerund as complement. (As noted earlier, determiners don't normally allow gerunds as complements.) The analyses are shown below.

See also Mixed categories.






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