Action nominal constructions (Hungarian)

ExclCopd: The construction is of the incorporating type. The verb becomes a noun, with only one of its arguments allowed to appear with it as its possessor and the other required to form a compound word with the action nominal if it is to appear at all.

(1a) a lajhár pihen.

the sloth rest.prs.3sg

‘The sloth is resting.’

(1b) a lajhár(-nak a) pihenés-e

the sloth-dat the rest-3sg

‘the rest of the sloth’

(2a) a lajhár gyümölcs-öt esz-ik.

the sloth fruit-acc eat- prs.3sg

‘The sloth is eating fruits.’

(2b) a lajhár evés-e

the sloth eating-3sg

‘the eating of the sloth’ = 

1. ‘The sloth is eating something.’

2. ‘Somebody is eating the sloth.’

(2c) a gyümölcs evés-e

the fruit eating-3sg

‘the eating of fruits’ 

‘Somebody is eating fruits.’

*’The fruit is eating something.’

(2d) ?a lajhár gyümölcsevés-e

the sloth fruit_eating-3sg

?‘the fruit-eating of the sloth’

(2e) *a gyümölcs lajhárevése

the fruit sloth_eating-3sg

*’the sloth-eating of the fruit’

The action nominal constructions are created with the help of the -ás/-és derivational suffix in Hungarian. The subject of an intransitive clause (1a) takes a possessive personal suffix (1b) in action nominal constructions. In the case of transitive verbs (2a), the patient and the agent of the verb can both fulfill the role of the possessor (2b)–(2c). However, only one of the complements of the transitive verb can appear in the action nominal possessive construction (either the agent or the patient). Due to the homonymy of argument roles, sometimes the action nominal constructions are ambiguous (e.g. in (2b) where the sloth can be interpreted as the agent or the patient of the action). If the patient forms a compound with the verb, the whole compound takes the -ás/-és derivational suffix and the agent appears as the possessor in the possessive construction (2d). With the compounding, it is possible to put both complements of the transitive verb into the action nominal construction. In this case, the agent is always the possessor, while the possessed entity is the -ás/-és compound of the verb and the patient. The semantic restrictions of compounding prevent the inversion of the arguments in this special action nominal construction (2e) (cf. Kenesei et al. 1998: 354‒355, Kiefer 2003: 238‒239, Hadrovics 1969: 161‒163).


Nikolett F. Gulyás