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Is there an accepted English term for a noun that

  • is formed from a verb, and
  • means the act or process of doing that verb?

For example, attraction, completion, confusion, establishment, encouragement and so on. Each of these examples is formed by adding -ion or -ment to a common verb.

Is there a word (or short phrase) for a noun like this?

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    They’re all essentially types of verbal nouns. That’s usually more limited when talking about English (being limited to just gerundial forms like attracting, completing, etc.); but when discussing various other languages, the term is applied more broadly to any verb that is nominalised from a verbal stem and has the meaning ‘the act/process of Xing’ or ‘an instance of Xing’, regardless of derivation, and there really isn’t any objective reason the same shouldn’t be applicable when discussing English. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 8:02
  • I think you mean gerundial nouns, as in "I witnessed the killing of the birds" / "I approved the breaking of the seal."
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 15:14
  • Yeah, I'm looking for something slightly wider than "gerundial" or "gerund", which (as far as I understand) really only applies to the forms ending in -ing. That's why I gave examples ending in -ment and -ion. Another possible suffix is -al, as in refusal and withdrawal. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 20:00
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    The process is called 'nominalisation', and the resultant base is called a 'deverbal noun'. Is that what you're looking for?
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 8:50
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    @DawoodibnKareem Note that deverbal noun is a broader category than verbal noun (in the broader sense used when describing other languages): a deverbal noun is any noun that’s derived from a verb, regardless of its meaning. So from the verb employ, the ‘broad verbal noun’ employment is a deverbal noun, but so are employ (‘in the employ of’), employer and employee, none of which are verbal nouns. Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 9:01

3 Answers 3

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Event nominalization: the turning something (a verb) into a noun meaning the event of performing the action denied by the verb.

Strictly speaking this term would include cases of nominalization from clauses rather than plain verbs in languages that support it. To exclude these you could use lexical event nominalization.

There is some description on Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominalization. The section on Japanese has a basic example of clausal nominalization.

When you’re talking strictly about nouns and not NPs, you can also use “(deverbal) event noun”.

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    I like this. It's not exactly what I was looking for - I wanted a term for the noun itself, not the process of making the noun. But "nominalization" is still a useful term for me. Also, the article that you linked to introduces the term "process noun" near the bottom. I think that's the expression I wanted. So thank you. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 6:23
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    @DawoodibnKareem yes or “event noun”, as not all events are processes.
    – Keelan
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 6:51
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I've typically seen nouns such as these described as action nouns or event nouns (action nouns typically refer to the process in the abstract, whilst event nouns refer to a specific instance). Depending on the semantics of the verb, action and event may feel like a little of a misnomer (e.g. attention doesn't feel like either an action or an event, but would still be seen as an action noun).

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The process is called 'nominalisation', and the resultant base is called a 'deverbal noun'.

A few less common suffixes attaching to verbs include dom, ship and ure:

free + dom = freedom

tutor + ship = tutorship

depart + ure = departure

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  • "deverbal noun" also covers any other nouns derived from verbs though, like speaker or addressee. And although "nominalization" is strictly speaking indeed the term for the process, it is commonly used for the end result as well.
    – Keelan
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 10:34
  • @Keelan Of course. The ones I gave were just examples.
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 12:07
  • Oh, OK. What I'm looking for wouldn't include words like speaker or employee. I specifically want a noun that means the action of doing something. I think departure and tutorship both fit what I want (although I'm starting to doubt tutorship). Freedom definitely doesn't. Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 2:44
  • @DawoodibnKareem I see you've unticked it, so now it's no longer the right answer?
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 6:21
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    @BillJ, I explained I was looking for a term that strictly means the action or the process associated with the verb. Your comment above indicates that you agree with Keelan's analysis - that deverbal noun could also mean words like speaker or addressee - which means it's not the term I'm looking for. Is Keelan's analysis wrong? Or is there a better term than deverbal noun? Please guide me here! Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 7:37

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