Conversion, defined in terms of formal identity and word-class change, is reported in a number of languages. This presentation reviews the semantic range described in the literature for conversion in English for a contrast against the semantic range evidenced by a 50-entry BNC stratified sample. The results are also compared with the semantic ranges attested in comparable samples for denominal verbal derivation by the prefix ‘en-/em-/in-/im-’, and by the suffixes ‘-ate’, ‘-en’, ‘ify’ and ‘-ize’/’-ise’. Beyond the similarities and differences between conversion and affixal derivation, the presentation identifies difficulties in the use of the categories traditionally used for the description of the semantic patterns formed by conversion. Conversion is a relatively widespread word-formation process, but it is difficult to tell how the patterns evidenced by the BNC sample for English may apply cross-linguistically.
Salvador Valera is an associate professor in English Morphology at the University of Granada. His field of research is isomorphism in morphology and lexical semantics. He has lead projects on isomorphism, conversion and lexicographical treatment of the former. He has (co-)supervised 4 PhDs and 5 more are currently underway.