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Grammatical metaphor: Nominalization

Breaking down big nominalizations

Nominalizations can be long and complex

Nominalization lets you pack more information into fewer words.

 

But it can also let you pack more information into more words—making some nominalizations long and complex, with lots of nested information.

 

Take a look at the nominalizations in this snippet, for example.

It came about in part because the crushing of piracy and the abolition of slavery both eventually became matters of state policy in the European countries that had first nurtured them.

Let’s break these nominalizations into pieces.

It came about in part because the crushing of piracy and the abolition of slavery both eventually became matters of state policy in the European countries that had first nurtured them.

You can see a repeating pattern of a noun followed by a qualifier, but the last nominalization is massive with three qualifiers each more complex than the last.

 

Here’s another snippet with some long nominalizations.

And command of the sea was becoming of paramount importance in the new age of commerce and trade: the secret at the heart of imperial ambition held that winning control of the sea was becoming much more important than winning control of land.

Highlight the elements inside each nominalization.

And command of the sea was becoming of paramount importance in the new age of commerce and trade: the secret at the heart of imperial ambition held that winning control of the sea was becoming much more important than winning control of land.