The nominal style uses many nominal groups and only a few full verbs in its sentences. The verbal style, on the other hand, uses many verbs and only a few nouns.
Function and effect of verbal and nominal style
The verbal style corresponds more to the colloquial language and is considered more lively, but also more long-winded and less concise. It is often found in fiction.
Nominal style is widely used in scientific, official and technical texts, not least for reasons of economy of language, diversity of expression, and reduction of syntactic complexity-often allowing the omission of subordinate clauses-while increasing informational density. It is, however, considered unlively. Many style guides advise avoiding it.
When a sentence is converted from verbal to nominal style, a verb is replaced by a related noun. In the main clause, this noun takes the place of the subject, giving the sentence an impersonal character. For example, a sentence “She opens the door.” becomes “The opening of the door is done by her.” Since the original verb is lost in the transfer, a new verb must be inserted (here, “take place”). The subject becomes the object. The nominal style has a particularly impersonal effect in the passive voice: “The opening of the door has to take place.” Here, there is now no person in either the subject or the object. If a verb of the subordinate clause is replaced by a noun, the subordinate clause can be saved. For example, the sentence “She published the document to provide the information.” can be transformed into the sentence “She published the document to provide the information”.
Sociolinguistics is concerned, among other things, with gender-specific characteristics in language behavior. It has been known since the 1990s that women tend towards the verbal style, whereas men tend towards the nominal style.
Comparison of nominal and verbal style
|Style guide||Nominal style||Verbal style|
|Substantivizations of verbs||The minister’s refusal led to a dispute within the coalition.||The minister refused, which led to a dispute in the coalition.|
|Functional verb structures, collocations instead of sole full verbs||I was considering taking a reading.||I considered measuring.|
|Nominalizations of functional verb phrases||It took until the law came into force.||It took time for the law to take effect.|
|Prepositions instead of verbal style, especially genitive ones||I acted on the strength of my reason.||I acted in this way because I was able to do so on the basis of my intellect.|
|subordinate genitive case||The plan of the meeting of the ministers of the countries failed.||The ministers of the countries intended to meet, which failed.|
- Administrative Language
- Legal jargon
- Arne Ziegler, Karl-Heinz Best, Gabriel Altmann: Nominalstil. In: etc. Empirische Text- und Kulturforschung 2 (2002), pp. 72-85 (PDF file; 3.9 MB (Memento of16 May 2011 in the Internet Archive)).
- Carsten Könneker, Communicating Science: A handbook with many practical examples. John Wiley & Sons, 2012, p. 21, 24. u.ö.; Duden, Praxis Rhetorik, Mannheim 2014, p. 40.
- Angelika Linke et al: Study book linguistics. 5. Auflage. Niemeyer, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-484-31121-5, chapter 8 Sociolinguistics, 8.5.1 Preferences in the language behaviour of men and women, p. 361 ff.