(No) competition between deverbal nouns and nominalized infinitives in Spanish

  • Barbara Schirakowski Freie Universität Berlin
Keywords: nominalization, infinitive, competition, psycholinguistics, deverbal nouns


This paper explores the distribution of deverbal nouns and nominalized infinitives that are built on transitive verbs and occur in eventive interpretations. The study is empirically oriented and based on an acceptability judgment experiment in which argument realization and interpretational possibilities are manipulated as the independent variables. The results show that deverbal nouns prefer but are not limited to realizing the lower argument of the base, whereas nominalized infinitives are mostly restricted to realizing the higher argument. Furthermore, deverbal nouns turn out to be insensitive with regard to the distinction between episodic and generic event readings, while nominalized infinitives are shown to be specialized on generic interpretations. Deverbal nouns and nominalized infinitives are, thus, mostly neither paradigmatically interchangeable nor complementarily distributed as nominalized infinitives reach the same degree of acceptability as deverbal nouns only under very narrow conditions. With regard to the ecological validity of the experimental approach, a comparison to corpus data indicates that high frequency clearly correlates with acceptability, but that the same does not hold for low frequency and unacceptability, that is forms that are not (sufficiently) attested in the corpus do not necessarily receive low ratings within the judgment task. The study, thus, also addresses a number of methodological issues in the study of event nominals.


The data used in this article can be accessed here:


How to Cite
Schirakowski, B. (2020). (No) competition between deverbal nouns and nominalized infinitives in Spanish. Borealis – An International Journal of Hispanic Linguistics, 9(2), 257-283. https://doi.org/10.7557/