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Other types of conversion

In addition to nominalising, verbalising and adjectivising conversion, other peripheral forms of conversion exist, whereby a word from a different part-of-speech category is used as another part-of-speech category, without overt morphological marking. The base and resulting word have identical forms. Details regarding various input/output part-of-speech categories are discussed in the sections below.

[+]Conversion with an adverb as output category (adverbialising conversion)

  • Related to the adjectivising conversion of prepositional phrases (see the topic on adjectivising conversion), we also find adverbialising conversion with the same kind of structure:
    • [[a](Ni)-[b](PREP)-die-[c](Nj)](A) < [met die [a](Ni) [b](PREP) die [c](Nj)](PP) ↔ [acting while SEM(Ni) is in relation SEM(PREP) to SEM(Nj)]
    • Compare for example:
    Paartjies stap hand-om-die-lyf buite ...
    couples walk hand-around-the-body outside ...
    Couple are walking outside, their arms around each other's waists ...
    • The adverb hand-om-die-lyf can be seen as a phrasal compound with a noun (lyf body) as head.

[+]Conversion with an interjection as output category

  • Names from the Christian Bible and Quran are sometimes used as interjections, e.g. God, Alla(h), Jesus, Moses, Jeremia, etc. This is not a productive process though, although alienation (i.e. alteration) of these proper names could be formed productively (e.g. Jitte or Jinne from Jesus).
  • Nouns referring to natural phenomena (e.g. donder thunder and bliksem lightning), celestial bodies (e.g. Aarde Earth and hemel heaven), and a few arbitrary nouns (e.g. deksels lids (of pots) and genade mercy) have been converted into interjections. These categories are also not productive, except perhaps for literary or humorous effect.

[+]Conversion with a preposition as output category

  • Some prepositions (mostly used in more formal registers) originate as participles: gedurende during (cf. German während, French durant); oorwegend(e) considering; hangende pending; gegewe given; etc.

[+]Conversion with a particle as output category

  • At least five verbal stems have developed uses as discourse particles (Kirsner 1990, De Vriendt 1995, Van Olmen 2013). They are glo believe, hoor hear, kom come, kyk look, and say.
    Daar het glo net 'n handjievol mense daar opgedaag.
    there has believe only a handful people there came
    It is believed/said/claimed that only a handful of people arrived there.
    Dis nie 'n baie goeie kombinasie nie, hoor!
    it's not a very good combination PTCL.NEG, listen
    Listen, it's not a very good combination!
    Hulle sê: Kom, laat ons hulle vernietig, dat hulle geen volk meer is nie ...
    they say: come, let us them destroy, that they no nation more is PTCL.NEG ...
    “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation ...
    Die Bybel, 1953, Psalm 83:5
    Kyk, 'n mens mag nooit 'n Venezolaan onderskat nie.
    look, a person may never a Venezuelan underestimate PTCL.NEG
    Look, one should never underestimate a Venezuelan.
    Indien 'n ondersoek binne redelike tyd (sê 1 maand) afgehandel word ...
    if a investigation within reasonable time (say 1 month) completed become.AUX.PASS.PRS ...
    If an investigation is completed within a reasonable time (say, 1 month) ...
It is unclear whether these particles are the result of conversion: it may also be the case that they have a clausal origin. This analysis seems particularly appropriate for (sentence-final) hoor that might be derived from a tag question hoor jy? hear you do you hear me?; do you understand?.


  • The class of numerals holds a special position among other part of speech categories, in that the class – broadly speaking – is defined semantically. Numerals express infinite possible points on the number scale, either as absolute points (i.e. cardinal numerals such as drie three), or points relative to other points (i.e. ordinal numerals such as derde third); either precisely (i.e. definite numerals such as drie or derde), or vaguely (i.e. indefinite numerals such as baie many or laaste last).
  • In as such, some classification systems don't consider the category "numeral" as a part of speech category on its own; numerals are rather categorised as adjectives, nouns, articles, etc., depending on their morphosyntactic behaviour in a particular context (see Pilon 2005 for a discussion). Consider for example:
    Cardinal numeral as an adjective
    ... dokters ... wou nie die drie vroue ondersoek nie ...
    ... doctors ... will.PST not the three women examine PTCL.NEG ...
    ... doctors ... didn't want to examine the three women ...
    Cardinal numeral as a noun
    ... die drie se dood moes "'n les wees vir die vyande van ons geloof " ...
    ... the three PTCL.GEN death must.PST a lesson be for the enemies of our belief ...
    ... the three's death should have been "a lesson for the enemies of our religion" ...
    Cardinal numeral as an article
    Beer het daarop drie dagvaardings ... aan die persoon uitgereik ...
    Beer have subsequent three summons ... to the person issued ...
    Beer has issued subsequently three summons ... to the person ...
    Cardinal numeral as a pronoun
    Drie sterf in Nelspruit-botsing
    Three die in Nelspruit-accident
    Three die in Nelspruit accident
  • Categorically speaking, numerals should therefore be considered and subsumed under other categories of conversion, such as nominalising or adjectivising conversion.

  • Kirsner, Robert and Jeanine Deen1990Het mes snijdt aan twee kanten. On the semantics and pragmatics of the Dutch final particle hoorThe Low Countries: Multidisciplinary studiesLanhamUniversity Press of America1-12
  • Olmen, Daniel van2013The imperative of saying as a pragmatic marker in English and DutchJournal of Germanic Linguistics25247-287
  • Vriendt, Sera de1995Kom, kijk, zeg als interjectieVan geen kelintje vervaardVUB Press
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