Verb-based restrictions on noun incorporation across languages

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although some characteristics of incorporating verbs and non-incorporating verbs have been proposed in previous studies, little systematic cross-linguistic research has been done on restrictions on the types of verbs that incorporate nouns. Knowledge about possible verb-based restrictions on noun incorporation may, however, provide important insights for theoretical approaches to noun incorporation, in particular regarding the question to what extent incorporation is a lexical or a syntactic process, and whether and how languages may vary in this respect. This paper therefore investigates to what extent languages restrict noun incorporation to particular verbs and what types of restrictions appear to be relevant cross-linguistically. The study consists of two parts: an explorative typological survey based on descriptive sources of 50 incorporating languages, and a more detailed investigation of incorporating verbs in corpus data from a sample of eight languages, guided by a questionnaire. The results demonstrate that noun incorporation is indeed restricted in terms of which verbs allow this construction within and across languages. The likelihood that a verb can incorporate is partly determined by its degree of morphosyntactic transitivity, but the attested variation across verbs and across languages shows that purely lexical restrictions play an important role as well.


  • Marieke Olthof
  • Eva van Lier
  • Tjeu Claessen
  • Swintha Danielsen
  • Katharina Haude
  • Nico Lehmann
  • Maarten Mous
  • Elisabeth Verhoeven
  • Eline Visser
  • Marine Vuillermet
  • Arok Wolvengrey
External organisations
  • University of Amsterdam
  • Leiden University
  • Humboldt University of Berlin
  • The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)
  • University of Zurich
  • First Nations University of Canada
  • No affiliation available (private)
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-256
Number of pages46
JournalLinguistic Typology
Issue number2
Early online date2020 Sep 30
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun 29
Publication categoryResearch

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