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Are there some languages that do not take their verbs and convert them into verbals (infinitives/participles/gerunds, et al.)? I noticed the Wikipedia article on participles has a number of language groups noted, but most (though not all) are European in origin (and similarly the infinitive page); specifically a number of African and Asian languages are not noted. The gerund page notes a few others (e.g. Japanese, Korean), but still seems a bit lacking in certain language groups.

So are there some languages that do not use verbs directly to form nouns, adjectives, or adverbs by means of transforming the verb into an infinitive, participle, gerund, or similar such aspect of speech that it keeps verbal properties along with the properties of the transformation? If so, what are some ways those languages express similar ideas? Do they have pure verbal nouns, attributive verbs (this one notes Japanese and Bantu), etc. to convey similar ideas?

My language background is English, Greek, Hebrew, and a very, very little German in high school. So I am totally unfamiliar with how other languages work (and really don't remember much about German).

  • I once attended an introductory lecture on Romani where the lecturer claimed the language doesn't have an infinitive, but they were not a linguist; quick googling gets me e.g. languagesgulper.com/eng/Romani.html which adds some nuance to this claim. – tripleee Apr 20 '18 at 6:47
  • @tripleee Romani is part of the Balkan sprachbund, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… They happen to be almost all IE, but this particular feature shows up in some local Turkish dialects too, which like the examples of Slavic and Romance is easy to contrast it with the rest of the family. We see a little bit of this tendency in Armenian and Persian too ("I want that I do x" rather than "I want to do x"). – Adam Bittlingmayer Apr 20 '18 at 19:51
  • Bulgarian has no infinitive whatsoever. The dictionary form of the verb is the 1st p. sg. present tense. – Yellow Sky Apr 26 '18 at 6:10
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So are there some languages that do not use verbs directly to form nouns, adjectives, or adverbs by means of transforming the verb into an infinitive, participle, gerund, or similar such aspect of speech … ?

I think isolating languages like Mandarin might fit this bill. Mandarin lacks extensive verbal morphology, such that a verb's function is more often determined syntactically. For example, 睡觉 (pinyin: shui4jiao4) "sleep" can also function as "sleeping/to sleep". Its function is only clear through sentence context.

… what are some ways those languages express similar ideas?

In the case of Chinese, verb function is determined syntactically, for example:

我 喜欢  睡觉
I like sleep
"I like sleeping/to sleep."

我 睡觉 了
I sleep LE
"I'm going to sleep."

Position in the sentence is the only way that these verbs differ from each other, in the first sentence, as an object, and in the second one, as the main verb.

I'm not sure if these apply to other isolating languages. I'm using examples from Chinese mainly because I've been studying it for a long time.

I am assuming here that when you say "transforming" the verb into other parts of speech, you mean changing a verb's part of speech through morphology. If this is what you mean, then I believe that Mandarin is one example of such a language that doesn't use morphology to change a verb's part of speech.

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  • This is along the lines of what I was wondering, so +1. – ScottS Apr 22 '18 at 22:56

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