#3579. 現代英語の基本的特徴の1つとしての「機能の柔軟さ」[pde_characteristic][conversion][morphology][inflection]


 Encyclopaedia Britannica の "English language" の記事の冒頭に,現代英語の基本的特徴が3つ挙げられている.屈折の単純さ (simplicity of inflection) ,機能の柔軟さ (flexibility of function) ,語彙の開放性 (openness of vocabulary) である.屈折の単純さと語彙の開放性については「#151. 現代英語の5特徴」 ([2009-09-25-1]) をはじめ pde_characteristic の記事などで取り上げてきたが,機能の柔軟さを現代英語の基本的特徴の1つに数え上げる見解は比較的珍しいのではないかと思う.以下,Britannica より引用する.

Flexibility of function has grown over the last five centuries as a consequence of the loss of inflections. Words formerly distinguished as nouns or verbs by differences in their forms are now often used as both nouns and verbs. One can speak, for example, of "planning a table" or "tabling a plan," "booking a place" or "placing a book," "lifting a thumb" or "thumbing a lift." In the other Indo-European languages, apart from rare exceptions in Scandinavian, nouns and verbs are never identical because of the necessity of separate noun and verb endings. In English, forms for traditional pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs can also function as nouns; adjectives and adverbs as verbs; and nouns, pronouns, and adverbs as adjectives. One speaks in English of the Frankfurt Book Fair, but in German one must add the suffix -er to the place-name and put attributive and noun together as a compound, Frankfurter Buchmesse. In French one has no choice but to construct a phrase involving the use of two prepositions: Foire du Livre de Francfort. In English it is now possible to employ a plural noun as adjunct (modifier), as in "wages board" and "sports editor"; or even a conjunctional group, as in "prices and incomes policy" and "parks and gardens committee."

 ここで話題になっている「機能の柔軟さ」とは,言語学用語を使えば,要するに品詞転換 (conversion) あるいはゼロ派生 (zero derivation) のことである.形態をいじらずに機能・意味を自由に変えられてしまうという性質は,確かに英語のきわだった特徴といってよい.英語のこの融通無碍な性質は,屈折の衰退に起因する「語根主義」とも深く関係し,英語の諸部門に深く染み込んだ特質となっている(cf. 「#655. 屈折の衰退=語根の焦点化」 ([2011-02-11-1])).
 関連して,「#190. 品詞転換」 ([2009-11-03-1]) を筆頭に conversion の記事を参照されたい.

 ・ Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2008 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008.

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