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In morphology, conversion is a process which derives words without changing the phonological shape of the base.


In English it is possible to derive verbs from adjectives in such a way that the verbs are interpreted as 'TO RENDER SOMETHING ADJECTIVE': solid-ify 'make solid', legal-ize 'make legal'. But we also find verbs of this (semantic) type which are phonologically identical to the base adjective: to clean 'make clean', to warm 'make warm' etc. These are instances of conversion.


Some linguists (e.g. Bloomfield 1933, Kiparsky 1982) assume that converted forms are derived by means of an affix without phonetic content, a so-called zero-affix or null morpheme. Others have challenged this view (e.g. Lieber 1980, 1981).


Other terms for this process are: null affixation, zero-derivation, hypostasis, functional shift, implicit transposition.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language. New York: Henry Holt and Co.
  • Don, J. 1993. Morphological Conversion. PhD diss. Utrecht University.
  • Kiparsky, P. 1982. From Cyclic Phonology to Lexical Phonology. In The Structure of Phonological Representations (I). van der Hulst, H. & Smith, N. (eds.), 131-175.
  • Lieber, R. 1980. On the Organization of the Lexicon. PhD diss. University of New Hampshire, reproduced by the IULC.
  • Lieber, R. 1981. Morphological Conversion within a Restricted Theory of the Lexicon. In The Scope of Lexical Rules. Moortgat et al. (eds.), pages. Dordrecht: Foris.
  • Marchand, H. 1969. The Categories and Types of Present-day English Word-Formation. München: Beck.
  • Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory. Blackwell, Oxford.