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Nominalisation in

English and Arabic: A

Contrastive Study
Rana K. El Kholy
PhD Programme in Applied Linguistics
Cairo University, Cairo

Theoretical Background
According to Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002), nominalisations are
abstract nouns which are formed from verbs or adjectives through
derivational morphology.
Nominalisation in English: According to Biber, Conrad and Leech
(2002) English nominalisations are derived from verbs and adjectives
through the addition of noun suffixes, which have different meanings.
Nominalisation in Arabic: Palmer (1874) explains how different
types of Arabic nouns are derived from verbs: nouns of unity, nouns
of species, agents, passive participles, nouns of actions formed with
the Arabic letter /mi:m/, nouns of time and place, nouns of
instrument, nouns of quality, nouns of colour and defect, nouns of
superiority (or comparative), and nouns of excess or incentive agent.

Rationale for the Study

The main aim of the present study is to investigate
nominalisations in English and Arabic.
This study aspires to reveal whether there are any
similarities or differences between nominalisations in
both language in order to determine the pedagogical
usefulness of such a comparison.
Research Question: what are the similarities and
differences between nominalisation in English and in

Sample: Two articles, one from an English newspaper
and another from an Arabic newspaper, were scanned
for cases of nominalisation. The two articles depicted
the same piece of news: the Russian plane crash in
Sharm El Sheikh was caused by a bomb. Both
newspapers were published on November 18th, 2015.
Data Analysis: The English data was analysed
according to the types of nominalisation mentioned by
Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002), whereas the Arabic
data was examined according to the types explained by
Palmer (1874).

Types of English Nominalisations

Main meaning(s)

Examples from sample


various meanings


-ance, -ence

action/state of V-ing

assistance, clearance


a person (various meanings)


-er, -or

a person/thing that V-ing

bomb-maker, advisor


state of being A



action/instance of V-ing

scattering, bringing down, targeting, restructuring





state/quality of being A

security, authority


action/instance of V-ing

involvement, statement


action/instance of V-ing

examination, explosion, investigation, consideration,

information, penetration, description

Types of Arabic Nominalisations
Derivation form

Examples from sample


Noun of action


Noun of unity

Type of Noun

Noun of place
Noun of instrument
Noun of quality

Discussion and Conclusion

In light of the foregoing data presentation, the analysis
provided clear credence to the view that nominalisation
are different in English and Arabic.
The study reached the conclusion that nominalisation
takes place in English by adding suffixes to verbs and
On the other hand, nominalisation in Arabic involves
going back to the root of the verb and then deriving the
noun according to its meaning.
Hence, the process of nominalisation is vastly different
in both languages.

Pedagogical Implications
It is hoped that this contrastive analysis of
nominalisation in English and Arabic will contribute to
the field of education and stimulate further research to
be undertaken in this area.
It would be enlightening to expose learners of both
English and Arabic to the rules of nominalisation,
especially in Arabic because if they are introduced to
the root of any verb and the different derivational rules,
they can formulate their own nominalisations.

Biber, D., Conrad, S., & Leech, G. (2002). Longman student
grammar of spoken and written English. Essex, UK: Pearson
Education Limited.
Palmer, E. H. (1874). A grammar of the Arabic language. London: H.
Data Sources:
Abbas, A. (2015, November 18). Plane crash terrorist attack:
Russia. Daily News Egypt, pp.1.
.(18 2015) .
.5. ." "