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A converb is a non-finite verb form that serves to express adverbial subordination, i.e. notions like 'when', 'because', 'after', 'while'.


(1) Russian (Weiss 1995:259)

Okonchiv desjatiletku, ja osen'ju byl prizvan v Armiju.

'Having finished ten years of school, in autumn I was drafted into the Army.'

(2) Italian (Pusch 1980:107)

C'è una donna che guadagna danaro accompagnando nuovi membri.

'There's a woman who earns money by accompanying new members.'


The notion adverbial in the definition is relatively vague. Adverbial subordinate clause primarily contrasts with relative clause and complement clause. Non-finite verb forms that serve to express relative clauses are often called participle, and non-finite verb forms that serve to express complement clauses are often called infinitive, masdar or nominalization. The notion "non-finite" in the definition is problematic and arguably Indo-European-centered.


narrative vs. specialized converb (Nedjalkov 1995)





The term converb was coined by Ramstedt (1903:55) for Mongolian and until recently was mostly used by specialists of Mongolic and Turkic languages. Nedjalkov & Nedjalkov (1987) first adopted the term for general typological use, followed by Haspelmath & König (1995).


  • Bickel, B. 1998. ‘Converbs in cross-linguistic perspective’ [Review article on Haspelmath & König (eds.) 1995.]

Linguistic Typology 2. 381-397.

  • Haspelmath, Martin. 1995. ‘The converb as a cross-linguistically valid category’. In Haspelmath, M. & E. König

(eds.), Converbs in cross-linguistic perspective . 1-55. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Haspelmath, M. 1999. ‘Converbs’. In Brown K. & J. Miller (eds.), Concise encyclopedia of grammatical

categories . 110-115. Oxford : Elsevier.

  • König, E. 1995. ‘The meaning of converb constructions’. In Haspelmath, M. & E. König (eds.), Converbs in

cross-linguistic perspective . 57-96. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Nedjalkov, Vladimir P. 1990. "Osnovnye tipy deepricastij." In: Xrakovskij, Viktor S. (ed.) Tipologija i grammatika. Moskva: Nauka, 36-59.
  • Nedjalkov, Vladimir P. 1995. ‘Some typological parameters of converbs’. In Haspelmath, M. & E. König (eds.), Converbs

in cross-linguistic perspective . 97-136. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Nedjalkov, Vladimir P. & Nedjalkov, Igor’ V. 1987. "On the typological characteristics of converbs." In: Toomas Help (ed.) Symposium on language universals. Tallinn, 75-79.
  • Noonan, Michael. 1999. ‘Converbal constructions in Chantyal’. In Yadava, Y. & W. Glover (eds.), Topics in Nepalese

linguistics . Kathmandu: Royal Nepal Academy.

  • Pusch, Luise. 1980. ...
  • Tikkanen, Bertil. 2001. ‘Converbs’. In Haspelmath, M., E. König, W. Österreicher & W. Raible (eds.). Language

typology and language universals. Volume 2 . 1112-1123. Berlin : Mouton de Gruyter

  • van der Auwera, J. 1998. ‘Defining converbs’. In Kulikov, L. & H. Vater (eds.), Typology of the verbal

categories: Papers presented to Vladimir Nedjalkov on the occasion of his 70th birthday . 273-282. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.

  • Ylikoski, J. 2003. ‘Defining non-finites: action nominals, converbs and infinitives’. SKY Journal of Linguistics 16. 185-237.
  • Weiss, Daniel. 1995. "Russian converbs: a typological outline." In: Haspelmath, Martin & König, Ekkehard (eds.) 1995. Converbs in cross-linguistic perspective. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 239-282.

Other languages

German Konverb