A4 - Development of functional concepts in French

French is characterized by a large number of nouns denoting functional concepts such as adresse, beauté, contenu, destin, longueur. An etymological survey shows that the majority of these nouns are derived and nearly always transparent: they can either be traced back to descriptive adjectives (longlongueur) or to verbs (contenir → contenu). Most interesting is the development of deverbal nouns, because these undergo extensive semantic changes in their transformation from event verbs to functional nouns by drawing on associative cognitive processes like metonymy and metaphor. What is even more surprising is that most of them stem from roots denoting sensory-motor concepts deeply embedded in the fabric of human perception and action (OFr. tailler taille). Due to its nearly 1200 years of documented history as well as its many loan words from Classical Greek and Latin, French provides the perfect subject matter for case studies in concept formation.