Distinguishing nouns and verbs

A Tagalog case study
  • Henrison Hsieh


Many standard tests for identifying syntactic category, such as distribution and morphological potential, fail to distinguish between nouns and verbs in Tagalog. This state of affairs has led some scholars to propose that Tagalog does not treat verbs as a separate syntactic category from nouns. One such proposal by Kaufman (2009) further argues that adopting this so-called nominalist view of Tagalog allows us to straightforwardly understand a number of facts about the syntax of this language that have so far resisted consensus in analysis. This paper argues that the nominalist view cannot be maintained for Tagalog by showing differential behavior between nominal and verbal constituents in this language. It will furthermore be argued that the nominal behavior exhibited by verbal constituents can be attributed to a pervasive process of nominalization, broadly construed, neutralizing the aforementioned differential behavior. The result of this neutralization is reminiscent of phenomena found in other languages, and raises interesting questions regarding the range of nominalization processes observed cross-linguistically.


Syntactic category Relativization Nominalization Tagalog Austronesian 



I would like to acknowledge Lisa Travis and Junko Shimoyama for their invaluable guidance and encouragement on this project, as well as Dan Kaufman, Hadas Kotek, Mark Baker, and the audiences at BLS42 at UC Berkeley and SEALS26 in Manila for helpful comments and discussion on some of the ideas in this paper. Thanks also to four anonymous reviewers whose insightful comments and suggestions helped to greatly improve this paper. Finally, maraming salamat to my various Tagalog consultants who endured randomly timed grammaticality judgment questions, sometimes at strange hours of the night.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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