Lexical Flexibility: A bibliography

Lexical flexibility is the ability for a lexeme to function as multiple parts of speech with little to no structural or behavioral differences between functions. This bibliography covers publications which discuss the concept of lexical flexibility directly, as well as relevant publications which focus on related topics such as conversion / zero-derivation or lexical categories (both crosslinguistically and in specific languages).

Total references: 44

Last updated: October 10, 2020

References

  1. Mithun, Marianne. 2017. Polycategoriality and zero derivation: Insights from Central Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimo. In Valentina Vapnarsky, & Edy Veneziano (eds.), Lexical polycategoriality: Cross-linguistic, cross-theoretical, and language acquisition approaches (Studies in Language Companion Series 182). John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/slcs.182.

    Abstract

    The possibility of polycategorial lexical items, unspecified for category, raises interesting issues. One is the predictability of semantic relationships between polycategorial forms in predicating and referring uses. Another is the language-internal generality of the phenomenon, whether it necessarily holds of all units at a particular level. A third is its cross-linguistic generality and potential association with certain typological features. These issues are examined with examples from a language exhibiting striking similarities to the Mayan languages for which polycategoriality has recently been argued. Central Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimo appears to show robust polycategoriality at the root, stem, word, and clause level. A closer look indicates that the story is actually more interesting, and that the universality of polycategoriality remains an open question.

    Notes

    Mithun presents numerous potential cases of lexical flexibility at the root, stem, and fully-inflected word levels in Central Alaskan Yup’ik (Eskimo-Aleut > Eskimo > Yupik, Alaska), and argues that these items are specified for lexical category in each case, and therefore should not be considered flexible. As a diagnostic for identifying lexical flexibility, Mithun notes that zero-derivation presupposes a basic/derived relationship, even if diachronically, whereas polycategoriality assumes a single abstract meaning. In the case of polycategoriality, more specific meanings in different constructions must be accounted for.

    Mithun presents the following arguments in favor of zero-derivation for seemingly flexible forms in Yup’ik:

    • Most roots are only used as nouns or verbs. 35% are nominal, 53% are verbal, and only 12% may be used as both.

    • There are no semantic commonalities to which roots may be used for which function. The possible uses of a root must be memorized on a lexeme-specific basis.

    • The semantic relationships between roots being used for different functions are not predictable, suggesting that the items in each pair constitute separate lexical items.

    • The same kinds of semantic relationships hold between homophonous roots as appear in derived stems. Some roots can alternate classes with no derivation, while others cannot. This suggests that homophonous roots are actually the result of zero-derivation.

    • Yup’ik derivational affixes are fully specified for both the lexical catgory they attach to and the lexical category that results. If two meanings are possible for a root, a derivational affix will utilize the meaning most prototypical to the category it selects for.

    • Despite homophony between nominal and verbal uses of fully-inflected words, the two categories have different syntactic distributions.

    • The homophony between nominal and verbal fully-inflected words is the result of insubordination and other diachronic processes.

  2. Boas, Franz. 1911. Introduction. In Franz Boas (ed.), Handbook of American Indian Languages, Part 1 (Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletins 40). Smithsonian Institution.

    Notes

    Boas’ introduction to the Handbook of American Indian languages is best known for debunking scientific racism and evolutionary anthropology, advocating an objective, non-normative approach to anthropology instead. However, Boas also discusses the grammatical features of Native American languages at a high level, and is sometimes quoted in discussions of lexical flexibility for being one of the first to note the incommensurability of categories across different languages. Two quotes in particular are commonly cited:

    In the treatment of our noun we are accustomed to look for a number of fundamental categories. […] None of these apparently fundamental aspects of the noun are necessary elements of articulate speech. (p. 36)

    We conclude from the examples here given that in a discussion of the characteristics of various languages different fundamental categories will be found, and that in a comparison of different languages it will be necessary to compare as well the phonetic characteristics as the characteristics of the vocabulary and those of the grammatical concepts in order to give each language its proper place. (p. 43)

    However, these quotes are typically taken out of context: Boas in these quotes is discussing grammatical rather than lexical categories, and thus these statements are not directly relevant to discussions of lexical flexibility. Boas does discuss lexical categories in passing, noting that many Native American languages treat adjectives as verbs, but he does not discuss this phenomenon or lexical categories in any detail.

  3. Thompson, Sandra A. 1989. A discourse approach to the cross-linguistic category ‘Adjective’. In Roberta Corrigan, Fred R. Eckman, & Michael Noonan (eds.), Linguistic categorization (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 61). John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/cilt.61.16tho.

    Notes

    In a well-known paper, Hopper & Thompson (1984) argue that the lexical categories noun and verb are not lexically-specified but rather imposed by discourse. In the present paper, Thompson builds on this work to provide a discourse-based explanation for the fact that property concepts crosslinguistically sometimes pattern like verbs, and other times like nouns, and in other languages constitute their own class (with combinations of these attested for individual languages as well). Why are property concepts distributed across different classes, rather than forming their own class in every language? Thompson answers this question by examining the use of property concepts in natural discourse data from English (which is generally thought to have a distinct adjective class) and Mandarin (in which property concepts largely pattern like verbs). Thompson finds that property concepts generally perform two functions in discourse: to predicate a property of an already-introduced referent, in which case the property concept appears in a predicative adjective construction; or to introduce a new referent into the discourse, in which case the property concept appears as an attributive (modifying) adjective with a (relatively) semantically vacuous nominal head, such as, for example, it’s a religious thing. In the latter case, the attributive use is used to introduce a new referent with the particular defining property indicated by the adjective. This functional division is what explains the crosslinguistic distribution of property concepts across both nominal and verbal categories, with some languages exhibiting a distinct adjective category since property concepts are neither prototypical nouns nor verbs.

  4. Hopper, Paul J. & Sandra A. Thompson. 1984. The discourse basis for lexical categories in Universal Grammar. Language 60(4): 703–752. DOI: 10.2307/413797.

    Abstract

    Most linguists who have investigated linguistic categories from a universal viewpoint have accepted the existence of two basic parts of speech, noun and verb. Other categories are found to be only inconsistently represented; thus adjective is manifested in many languages as a class of stative verb. Furthermore, individual languages often have intermediate categories such as gerund, which cannot be unambiguously assigned to a single category. We suggest here that the basic categories N and V are to be viewed as universal lexicalizations of the prototypical discourse functions of ‘discourse-manipulable participant’ and ‘reported event’, respectively. We find that the grammars of languages tend to label the categories N and V with morphosyntactic markers which are iconically characteristic of these categories to the degree that a given instance of N or V approaches its prototypical function. In other words, the closer a form is to signaling this prime function, the more the language tends to recognize its function through morphemes typical of the category—e.g. deictic markers for N, tense markers for V. We conclude by suggesting that categoriality itself is another fundamental property of grammars which may be directly derived from discourse function.

    Notes

    Hopper & Thompson argue that categoriality is not a property of linguistic forms per se, but rather a matter of their function in discourse. Linguistic forms are said to be acategorial, although Hopper & Thompson acknowledge that most forms, as a result of their semantic affordances, have a propensity for one category or another. They define prototypical nouns as items which are discourse manipulable, and prototypical verbs as items which are construed as reported events. They provide empirical data showing that, when an item is not functioning to introduce a new participant into the discourse or to report an event (e.g. a continuing topic or a complement clause) it is less strongly marked as a member of the category noun or verb. Conversely, items which perform these functions are more likely to be explicitly marked with morphology relating to that function. They also posit an implicational universal wherein languages require derivational morphology to derive a noun from a verbal root, but can derive verbs productively from either nominal or verbal roots with no overt morphology. In other words, all languages are omnipredicative but do not necessarily show bidirectionality between nouns and verbs (to borrow terminology from Evans & Osada (2005)).

    This influential article was one of the first studies to prominently take a discourse-based approach to lexical categories, and served as a foundation for many other studies in functionalist linguistics, including especially work by William Croft. Croft’s typological-markedness approach echoes that of Hopper & Thompson in that it sees categoriality as prototypal rather than a property of specific lexical items which divide neatly into distinct categories. If Hopper & Thompson’s thesis is correct, it would seem to make two predictions: 1) In rigid languages (i.e. languages with more clearly delineated parts of speech), category-specific morphology should arise from the use of lexical items in discourse to either introduce a discourse-manipulable participant or report an event; 2) In flexible languages, the choice of category for a flexible wordform is dependent on its discourse function.

  5. Nakayama, Toshihide. 2002. Nuuchahnulth (Nootka) morphosyntax (University of California Publications in Linguistics 134). University of California Press.

    Notes

    This volume is a grammatical sketch of the Nuuchahnulth (a.k.a. Nootka; Wakashan, British Columbia) language. It is a revised version of Nakayama’s Ph.D. dissertation at the University of California, Santa Barbara, covering phonology, morphology, word classes / word formation, and syntax / argument structure, with a strong focus on discourse throughout. The sketch is based on natural discourse data collected during Nakayama’s fieldwork.

    Nuuchahnulth and other Wakashan languages have featured prominently in the literature on lexical flexibility, primarily due to claims by Sapir and Swadesh (Sapir & Swadesh 1939; Swadesh 1933) that the language lacks lexical categories. Jacobsen (1979) later took an opposing view, stating that lexical items in Nuuchahnulth are specified for lexical category. In this grammar sketch, Nakayama adopts a functional approach informed by diachrony, and argues that, while lexical categories do exist in Nuuchahnulth, they are not strongly grammaticized, and there is a low degree of specialization for lexical items. Instead, he states that lexical categories in Nuuchahnulth are a matter of repeated discourse tendencies rather than a set of structural properties.

    Nakayama’s approach to lexical flexibility shows similarities to Hopper & Thompson’s (1984) approach to lexical categories more generally in claiming that lexical categories in Nuuchahnulth are imposed via discourse rather than lexically-specified. Nakayama’s idea that parts of speech in Nuuchahnulth are “less strongly grammaticized” than other languages also has an interesting implication for the historical development of lexical categories: it suggests that lexical specification for parts of speech may emerge from repeated discourse tendencies that become routinized over time, so that a given lexical item become solely or at least strongly associated with a particular pragmatic function, and the set of constructions which encode that function.

  6. Plank, Frans. 1997. Word classes in typology: Recommended reading. Linguistic Typology 1(2): 185–192. DOI: 10.1515/lity.1997.1.2.185.

    Abstract

    In the summer of 1996 some thirty experts, all on record with relevant publications, were asked to nominale up to ten titles of really recom- mended reading on word classes—articles and books (or also chapters of books) that in their opinion had shed light on the problem of how and why to distinguish word classes, in general or with reference to individual classes, and especially on typological Variation in this respect. About half of them replied by mid-November, sometimes providing longer lists.

    The following bibliography compiles the recommendations of Alexandra Aikhenvald, Jan Anward, D. N. S. Bhat, Jürgen Broschart, William Croft, Inga Dolinina, David Gil, Kees Hengeveld, Aleksandr Kibrik, Edith Moravcsik, Frans Plank, Regina Pustet, Jan Rijkhoff, Leon Stassen, Sandra Thompson, Petra Maria Vogel, Arnfinn Vonen, and Anna Wierzbicka. (Thank you all for your cooperation.)

    An asterisk marks titles nominated twice; two asterisks are for three to five nominations; and three are for seven or more—that is, word-class world-class.

    Notes

    A bibliography of crucial works in the typological study of word classes. Many of these sources treat directly with the issue of lexical flexibility as well (those sources are included in this bibliography).

  7. Givón, Talmy. 2017. The story of zero. John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/z.204.

    Abstract

    The zero coding of referents or other clausal constituents is one of the most natural, communicatively and cognitively-transparent grammatical devices in human language. Together with its functional equivalent, obligatory pronominal agreement, zero is both extremely widespread cross-linguistically and highly frequent in natural text. In the domain of reference, zero represents, somewhat paradoxically, either anaphorically- governed high continuity or cataphorically-governed low topicality. And whether in conjoined/chained or syntactically-subordinate clauses, zero is extremely well-governed, at a level approaching 100% in natural text. The naturalness, cross-language ubiquity and well-governedness of zero have been largely obscured by an approach that, for 30-odd years, has considered it a typological exotica, the so-called “pro-drop” associated with a dubious “non-conigurational” language type. The main aim of this book is to reairm the naturalness, universality and well-governedness of zero by studying it from four closely related perspectives: (i) cognitive and communicative function; (ii) natural-text distribution; (iii) cross-language typological distribution; and (iv) the diachronic rise of referent coding devices. The latter is particularly central to our understanding the functional interplay between zero anaphora, pronominal agreement and related referent-coding devices.

    Notes

    This volume seeks to explain the functional motivations for zero reference, i.e. zero anaphora and cataphora, most especially from cognitive and diachronic perspective. It comprises two sections: discourse or ‘ungoverned’ anaphora/cataphora and syntactic or ‘governed’ anaphora/cataphora. The running theme of the book is to show that zeros signal maximum referential continuity, and that this principle helps explain the distribution of zero reference crosslinguistically. Givón explains the use of zero for referential continuity via two cognitive principles: informational predictability (anaphoric), wherein predictable information need not be mentioned, and informational importance (cataphoric), wherein unimportant information need not be mentioned.

    The book spends little time discussing lexical categories, but does note one highly relevant connection for the study of discourse and lexical flexibility:

    The overwhelming tendency in natural human discourse is to make perceptually salient, compact and temporally-stable entities – most commonly nouns – the old-information chunks that ground new information. As a result, natural human discourse seems to be ‘about’ such nominal entities, which are then coded by various grammatical means as the topical referents in the discourse, most typically the grammatical subjects and objects of clauses. (p. 32)

    A prediction that would seem to stem from this is that (back)grounding information is more likely to be coded using referring constructions than predicative constructions.

    Givón also notes that nominalization is a common diachronic pathway into subordination (with the exception of adverbial clauses), motivated by the fact that the nominalized referent is functioning as an argument of the clause. This raises the question whether, in highly flexible languages, we should similarly expect to see lexical items used as arguments coded with referential rather than predicative constructions.

  8. Jacobsen, William H. 1979. Noun and verb in Nootkan. In Barbara S. Efrat (ed.), The Victoria conference on northwestern languages. British Columbia Provincial Museum.

    Notes

    This article provides a thorough summary of the literature on the distinction between noun and verb as it pertains to Nuuchahnulth (a.k.a. Nootka; Wakashan > Southern Wakashan, British Colombia) and the surrounding languages. Jacobsen states that there have been two main reasons for claiming a lack of a distinction between noun and verb in these languages: 1) the fact that noun-like words exhibiting categories typically associated with verbs (tense, aspect, and mode); and 2) lack of evidence for distributional differences between the two categories; in particular, the fact that all words can act as either predicates or arguments. Jacobsen takes particular issue with the second claim, which he notes is the more substantive of the two. He provides evidence in these languages for a syntactic difference between argument and predicate, and shows that flexibility between noun and verb is often unidirectional: verbs may only appear as arguments in their nominalized form. However, Jacobsen also allows for instances of multiple class membership and lexicalization, and it is not clear how this concession affects his position.

    This article is especially useful for its thorough survey of the literature on this topic, and similarly thorough treatment of data from the relevant languages. It is influential in pointing out numerous empirical pieces of counterevidence to the claim that some northwestern languages completely lack a noun-verb distinction; however, it has little to say towards why the distinction is so blurred. The position in this article is thus not so different from Dixon’s (2004: 1) approach to adjectives, which argues that this category can be found in any language provided one looks hard enough for the evidence.

  9. Baker, Mark C. 2015. Nouns, verbs, and verbal nouns: Their structure and their structural cases. In Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, & Krzysztof Migdalski (eds.), How categorical are categories? New approaches to the old questions of noun, verb, and adjective (Studies in Generative Grammar 122). Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9781614514510-003.

    Abstract

    Questions about whether the noun-verb distinction is continuous or discrete can be about three sorts of linguistic entities: roots, whole words, or syntactic elements. I claim that nouns and verbs qua syntactic elements are discretely different, whereas the noun-verb distinction qua morphological roots may not be. Having clarified this, I focus on an empirical domain in which nouns and verbs do have discretely different behavior: verbal constructions allow object arguments that have structural case (accusative) whereas nominal constructions do not. I show that this asymmetry follows from the conjunction of two independently motivated ideas: (i) nominal projections do not allow specifiers whereas verbal projections do, and (ii) accusative case is assigned to the lower of two nominals within the same local domain. Unlike accusative case, ergative case does often extend from clauses to noun phrases, where it is used to mark the possessor of the noun. I show that this difference between accusative languages and ergative languages also follows naturally from the fundamental structure of nominals together with the idea that ergative is a dependent case, like accusative but its converse. Finally, I consider the fact that “verbal nouns” (gerunds) often do have accusative case objects despite behaving like nouns in other respects. This follows from the fact that verbal noun constructions consist of an ordinary verb phrase embedded under an ordinary noun head, with the verb and the noun simply merged together into a single word on the surface.

    Notes

    Baker begins the chapter by noting that questions about categoriality can apply to roots, whole words, or syntactic elements, and that his research explores just the status of syntactic elements. In his 2003 book Lexical categories, Baker argues for a distinction at level of syntactic elements between nouns, verbs, and adjectives. This chapter extends that analysis, claiming that nominal projections do not allow specifiers whereas verbal projections do, and that this fact explains certain behaviors of verbal nouns (gerunds). Thus Baker’s take on lexical flexibility is that, at the level of syntactic units at least, lexical categories are strictly delineated in terms of a number of well-defined syntactic properties. That is, lexical words are not flexible at the level of syntactic units, but fall into clear categories.

  10. Braithwaite, Ben. 2015. Nuu-chah-nulth nouns and verbs revisited: Root allomorphy and the structure of nominal predicates. In Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, & Krzysztof Migdalski (eds.), How categorical are categories? New approaches to the old questions of noun, verb, and adjective (Studies in Generative Grammar 122). Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9781614514510-004.

    Abstract

    The nature of the noun-verb distinction in Nuu-chah-nulth and its Southern Wakashan relatives has been debated for many years. Most researchers since Jacobsen (1979) have accepted that nouns and verbs do form distinct categories in the language, despite the fact that almost all roots may bear both nominal and verbal inflectional affixes. There has been much less consensus regarding the reasons for the apparent fluidity of categories, and disagreement on the structures of predicates based on nominal roots. In this paper I provide new morphological evidence for the categorical distinction between nouns and verbs in Nuu-chah-nulth, based on the distribution of bound and free allomorphs of certain roots: Bound allomorphs of nominal roots fail to surface in predicative contexts in which the bound forms of verbal roots are compulsory. This difference is accounted for in terms of a null copula, which blocks allomorphy in nominal predicates. This analysis also reconciles the Nuu-chah-nulth data with Baker’s (2003) theory of lexical categories.

    Notes

    Braithwaite argues that allomorphy in free vs. bound forms of certain roots in Nuuchahnulth (a.k.a. Nootka; Wakashan > Southern Wakashan, British Colombia) provides evidence for positing a null copula, which blocks allomorphy in nominal predicates, thus explaining the differential behavior of free vs. bound forms. The differential behavior of interest in this chapter is the fact that verbal roots show allomorphy when in free vs. bound position, while nominal roots do not. However, the presentation of the data in this chapter downplays the fact that seemingly nominal roots do in fact show allomorphy in free vs. bound contexts; this allomorphy is simply associated with certain semantic shifts, and is often lexicalized with a new, idiosyncratic meaning. Thus while this chapter does point out different behavioral tendencies between one class of roots and another, no explanation is offered for instances where the two classes of roots behave similarly.

  11. Błaszczak, Joanna & Dorota Klimek-Jankowska. 2015. Noun and verb in the mind: An interdisciplinary approach. In Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, & Krzysztof Migdalski (eds.), How categorical are categories? New approaches to the old questions of noun, verb, and adjective (Studies in Generative Grammar 122). Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9781614514510-005.

    Abstract

    In this paper we intend to provide a unified picture of the organization of knowledge about nouns and verbs in the mind emerging from the results of recent foundational studies that use a variety of different experimental techniques and research methods ranging from processing experiments, language acquisition and aphasia studies to more advanced neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies. Each of the authors of the articles discussed in the present paper attempts to show that the distinction between nouns and verbs originates only (or mainly) at one of the following levels: the conceptual-semantic, the lexical or the morphological level. Our overview points to a conclusion that the knowledge about verbs and nouns in the mind cannot be attributed to a single level, but rather it seems to be the case that it is organized in the form of a distributed network of specialized functions in which many processes related to noun or verb processing may happen in a parallel fashion. Even though in some respects the presented studies do not entirely lead to a coherent picture of what happens in the brain when people process nouns and verbs, it is still possible to find overlapping results. For example, nominal and verbal concepts of objects or actions are processed in the vicinity of the visual and motor cortex respectively. Lexical (orthographic and phonological) representations of nouns and verbs are stored in mid temporal and left frontal cortex respectively. Noun- and verb-dependent morphological operations happen in left anterior occipitotemporal gyrus and prefrontal/ frontotemporal cortex respectively.

    Notes

    This chapter is a thorough and very useful review of the psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic work on the distinction between nouns and verbs, including processing, language acquisition, aphasia, and neuroimaging studies. These studies locate this distinction at the conceptual, lexical, or morphological level, but the authors suggest that information about the distinction is organized into a distributed network that functions at all three levels. This perspective aligns well with Taylor’s (2003) view that the prototype structure of lexical categories can be fruitfully examined at both the conceptual and lexical levels.

  12. Cetarnowska, Bożena. 2015. Categorial ambiguities within the noun phrase: Relational adjectives in Polish. In Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, & Krzysztof Migdalski (eds.), How categorical are categories? New approaches to the old questions of noun, verb, and adjective (Studies in Generative Grammar 122). Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9781614514510-006.

    Abstract

    In this paper I discuss noun-like properties of relational adjectives in Polish, in view of the recent proposals couched within the framework of Distributed Morphology that certain denominal adjectives (e. g., in Spanish and in Greek) contain nominal projections in their syntactic representations. Special attention is given to group adjectives, which are derived from names of countries, regions, professions and titles (e. g., dyrektorski ‘managerial’ or chiński ‘Chinese’). I also consider the occurrence of such adjectives as thematic adjectives (which can be treated as bearing theta-roles assigned by head nouns, e. g., the adjective chiński ‘Chinese’ in chińskie zwycięstwo ‘Chinese victory’) and as classificatory adjectives (e. g., chińskie samochody ‘Chinese cars’). I show that Polish relational adjectives in question pattern like nouns both in their thematic and classificatory usage, as is indicated, among others, by their behaviour under coordination and by their combinability with derivational affixes. The Polish data discussed here provide support for the hypothesis put forward for Spanish by Fábregas (2007), which states that both thematic and classificatory relational adjectives (and not only thematic ones, as proposed in Alexiadou & Stavrou (2011) for Greek) contain nouns in their syntactic representations.

    Notes

    This chapter concerns itself with the categorial status of relational adjectives, which are adjectives derived from nouns and whose meaning can be paraphrased as ‘relating to N’. They contrast with qualitative adjectives, which denote the quality of some entity, and may be morphologically simplex, or derived from nouns, verbs, or other adjectives. Cetarnowska argues that relational adjectives in Polish are pseudo-adjectives, i.e. “deep nouns”, which are dominated by a nominal projection.

    References

    • Fábregas, Antonio. 2007. The internal syntactic structure of relational adjectives. Probus 19(1): 135–170

    • Alexiadou, Artemis & Melita Stavrou. 2011. Ethnic adjectives as pseudo-adjectives: A case study in syntax-morphology interaction and the structure of DP. Studia Linguistica 65(2): 117–146

  13. Bach, Emmon. 1968. Nouns and noun phrases. In Emmon Bach, & Robert T. Harms (eds.), Universals in linguistic theory. Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

    Notes

    Bach argues that there is no underlying difference between nouns, verbs, and adjectives at the level of deep structure. All three are instead subsumed under the term contentives, which is meant to represent something similar to the idea of a predicate in logic, and contrasts with terms, i.e. noun phrases or the arguments to a predicate. In short, Bach revises the machinery of the transformational grammar of his day so that the deep structure of sentences more closely resembles the logical systems used in philosophical logician by philosophers such as Rudolph Carnap. Bach notes:

    In particular, such systems do not have any subdivision of ‘lexical items’ into nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Much more basic is the distinction between variables, names, and general ‘predicates’ which can be n-placed with respect to the number of terms that can occur as their arguments. (p. 121)

    This work is notable for being the first (as far as I am aware) to use the term contentives to refer to a category that subsumes the traditional major lexical categories of noun, verb, and adjective. Although Bach is not cited as a source, Bach’s usage of the term contentives in this manner was apparently adopted by Hengeveld, Rijkhoff, & Siewierska (2004) in their approach to flexible categories.

  14. Constantinescu, Camelia. 2015. Degree modification across categories: Nouns vs. adjectives. In Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, & Krzysztof Migdalski (eds.), How categorical are categories? New approaches to the old questions of noun, verb, and adjective (Studies in Generative Grammar 122). Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: 9781614514510-006b.

    Abstract

    In this paper I investigate the cross-categorial nature of gradability; the investigation of this phenomenon is used as a way of gaining insight into possible similarities and/ or differences between two categories: adjectives and nouns. The question I address is whether gradability is manifested in the nominal domain in the same way that we are familiar with from the adjectival domain. Focusing on two types of data involving noun modification, namely (i) certain types of adjectival modification which have been claimed to constitute evidence in favour of the existence of gradable nouns and of adnominal degree modifiers/ operators (Bolinger 1972; Paradis 2001; Morzycki 2009) and (ii) modification by cross-categorial degree expressions such as more, which combine not only with adjectives, but also with nouns (and verbs), I suggest a negative answer to this question and take this conclusion to indicate a fundamental difference between these two lexical categories (nouns vs. adjectives).

    Notes

    Constantinescu seeks to answer in this chapter whether nouns show gradability in the same way as adjectives. Consatantinescu states that the nominal domain does not show such gradibility, and that this constitutes a fundamental distinction between the two classes of words. The argument provided in evidence of this analysis is that words like big and real are in fact not degree modifiers, but always size adjectives and epistemic adjectives respectively, and can and should be analyzed this way even when they seemingly act as degree modifiers. Constantinescu thus denies any meaningful overlap between nouns and adjectives.

    References

    • Bolinger, Dwight. 1972. Degree words. Mouton.

    • Paradis, Carita. 2001. Adjectives and boundedness. Cognitive Linguistics 12: 47–65.

    • Morzycki, Marcin. 2009. Degree modification of gradable nouns: Size adjectives and adnominal degree morphemes. Natural Language Semantics 17: 175–203.

  15. Klockman, Heidi. 2015. What are categories? Adjective-like and noun-like semi-lexical numerals in Polish. In Joanna Błaszczak, Dorota Klimek-Jankowska, & Krzysztof Migdalski (eds.), How categorical are categories? New approaches to the old questions of noun, verb, and adjective (Studies in Generative Grammar 122). Mouton de Gruyter. DOI: 10.1515/9781614514510-008.

    Abstract

    In many languages, numerals appear to straddle the boundary between adjectives and nouns, sometimes behaving like adjectives, sometimes like nouns, and sometimes showing a mix of behaviors (Corbett 1978). The intermediate status of numerals presents a problem for theories of categories: how can something be simultaneously adjectival and nominal? In this paper I address the issue from the perspective of Polish numerals and argue that categories are derived notions, definable (in part) through the phi-features of an element. Elements with full sets of valued phi-features are nouns and elements with full sets of unvalued phi-features are adjectives. Building on the notion of semi-lexicality in Emonds (1985) and Corver and van Riemsdijk (2001), I suggest that numerals represent a new sort of semi-lexicality, involving incomplete phi-feature sets or feature sets with a mix of valued and unvalued phi-features. Such semi-lexical elements are predicted to show idiosyncratic behaviors which may or may not resemble adjectives and nouns. This is the approach taken for the Polish numeral system. Numeral 1 is defined as an adjective (unvalued gender, unvalued number) and numeral 1000 as a noun (valued gender, valued number). Numerals 2,3, and 4 are treated as adjectival nominals (valued number, unvalued gender) and numerals 5 + (5–10,100) as deficient nominals (valued number, missing gender). With these assumptions in hand, the case and agreement facts of Polish numerals can be captured. The implication of this study is that categories are not syntactic primitives; by viewing them as derived notions, we have the flexibility to deal with those elements like numerals which normally defy categorization.

    Notes

    In this chapter Klockman presents an analysis of Polish numerals within the generativist framework. Polish numerals, like numerals in many languages (Corbett 1978) show a mix of properties of nouns and adjectives, with lower numbers being more adjective-like, and higher numbers being more noun-like. Klockman argues that this situation results from the fact that lexical categories are not syntactic primitives. Instead, lexical categories are derived from more basic phi-features. Elements with a full set of valued phi-features are nouns, and a full set of unvalued phi-features are adjectives. Items with various combinations of valued and unvalued (or incomplete) phi-features therefore exhibit a mix of properties. This is an especially interesting work because it treats lexical categories not as basic, but rather as derived from more foundational notions. The idea of lexical categories as emerging from the interactions of other, more basic properties is not one that appears elsewhere in the literature on lexical flexibility. In (most?) all other approaches, lexical categories within particular languages are viewed as either nonexistent, or existent with fuzzy boundaries and/or non-central cases.

    References

    • Corver, Norbert & Henk van Riemsdijk (eds.). 2001. Semi-lexical categories: On the function of content words and the content of function words. Mouton de Gruyter.

    • Emonds, Joseph E. 1985. A unified theory of syntactic categories (Studies in Generative Grammar 19). Foris.

  16. Broschart, Jürgen. 1997. Why Tongan does it differently: Categorial distinctions in a language without nouns and verbs. Linguistic Typology 1(2): 123–165. DOI: 10.1515/lity.1997.1.2.123.

    Abstract

    The question whether all languages possess nouns and verbs has sometimes been called a matter of terminology rather than of substance, and the distinction between “nominal” and “verbal” categories has been regarded as at best a matter of degree. However, a detailed discussion offieldwork data from Tongan (Polynesia) will illustrate that a language such as Tongan exhibits a fundamental categorial distinction which is essentially different and logically independent from a major distinction between classical nouns and verbs. In order to capture these differences, it is necessary to avoid the confusion between a lexical and a syntactic level of analysis, which is a common mistake of previous approaches to the typology of word classes. Regardless of these differences, however, it will be demonstrated that Tongan and classical noun/verb-languages can be treated as variants in the same prototype framework.

    Notes

    This article appeared in the second issue of Linguistic Typology, at a time when lexical categories was receiving a good deal of attention in the typological literature (Frans Plank’s bibliography of word classes having been just published in the first issue of the same journal). As such, this article is influential in the literature on lexical flexibility, and the term “Broschartian language” is still used when discussing the possible ways to analyze cases of lexical flexibility.

    Broschart argues that there are three possible ways to analyze the seeming lack of a noun-verb distinction in Tongan: 1) the conversion hypothesis argues that the lexical categories of noun and verb are distinct, but simply unmarked, so that all cases of lexical flexibility are simply conversion; 2) the nominal vs. verbal syntax hypothesis states that lexical categories are not lexically specified, but instead are syntactic slots; and 3) the structural alternative hypothesis argues that Tongan does not possess the categories noun and verb, on either the lexical or syntactic levels, and that another distinction is relevant instead.

    Broschart adopts the third approach, and argues that Tongan is a type/token language, i.e. a language in which all lexical items are “predicates” as the term is meant in predicate logic. Any lexeme in the language may be used to predicate, and what the grammar of the language encodes is instead a distinction between whether a lexical item is being used to predicate or to indicate a term which is being predicated over. Broschart’s approach thus mirrors that of Bach (1968), who argued for the same distinction but at the level of deep structure in early formulations of generative grammar. In some ways this approach is also similar to calling Tongan an omnipredicative language. Though well-known and widely discussed, I know of no other researchers who have adopted a Broschartian analysis of languages purported to exhibit lexical flexibility.

  17. Gil, David. 1994. The structure of Riau Indonesian. Nordic Journal of Linguistics 17: 179–200.

    Abstract

    This article is concerned with the basic syntactic and semantic structure of Riau Indonesian, a hitherto undescribed dialect differing in many respects from standard Indonesian and Malay. Riau Indonesian appears to exhibit an abundance of zero-markings of various kinds, in which a wide variety of syntactic constructions and semantic categories lack overt morphosyntactic expression. Two alternative descriptions are provided: an “easy” description, couched in traditional grammatical terminology and a Eurocentric perspective, and a “simple” description, positing a single open syntactic category, and unconstrained rules of semantic interpretation. The latter, simple description, is argued to be superior.

    Notes

    This article is well-known in the literature on lexical flexibility, because in it Gil adopts the radical claim that Riau Indonesian has no lexical categories — all lexical words belong to a single lexical category S. As such, Riau Indonesian is rife with zero conversion (although Gil points out that the use of the term “zero conversion” is inaccurate because there are not distinct lexical categories in the lexical to convert between). Gil provides a number of examples (taken from naturally-occurring conversation, with analysis based on extensive fieldwork) aiming to show that any lexical item can occur in any position, and that the resultant meaning of any combination of items is straightforwardly compositional. While Gil claims that lexical items “have no typical or unmarked ontological category” (p. 190), he also notes that single-word expressions most typically have a default interpretation, even though other interpretations are sometimes available. Under a prototype-based approach to word meaning, it is expected that certain senses of a word are more central, and less semantically marked, than others. Based on cognitive research on prototypes, it would therefore be surprising if Gil’s extreme claim — that lexical items do not have a default ontological type / category — were true. Nonetheless, data from Riau Indonesian provides a strong challenge to all languages have lexical categories; at the very least, it requires that part-of-speech typologies significantly broaden their understanding of the ways in which those categories are realized, and the crosslinguistic variability.

  18. Gil, David. 1995. Parts of speech in Tagalog. In Mark Alves (ed.), Proceedings of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. Program for Southeast Asian Studies, Arizona State University.

    Abstract

    In what is perhaps one of the most blatant instances of Anglocentricism in linguistics, Pilipino schoolchildren learn from their grammar books that Tagalog sentences are of the form subject-copula-verb—in other words, just like their English counterparts. Alas, it is hard to imagine a more unwarranted imposition of one language’s structure upon that of another than is evident in such a statement, or to construct a statement about Tagalog grammar that is wrong in so many ways. Most linguists now recognize that Tagalog differs from English at least with respect to its basic word order, which is verb-initial: various subject-initial constructions, in which the copula ay is inserted, are generally considered to be more highly marked variants. Moreover, it is often observed that Tagalog differs from English also with respect to its inventory of grammatical relations; thus, Schachter (1976, 1977), Gil (1984) and others argue that Tagalog has neither subjects nor direct objects, its basic sentence structure consisting of a verb followed by a string of nominals. Such descriptions go some of the way towards freeing the study of Tagalog from its Anglocentric shackles—but they do not go far enough. In this paper, I suggest that Tagalog differs from English and other European languages more radically than is generally supposed, not only with respect to its basic word order and its inventory of grammatical relations but also with respect to its inventory of parts of speech, or syntactic categories. Specifically, I propose that Tagalog possesses but a single open syntactic category. In other words, Tagalog does not distingush between categories such as noun, verb, adjective, preposition, sentence, and so on, nor does it distinguish between lexical categories and their phrasal projections, that is to say between nouns and noun-phrases, verbs and verb-phrases, and so forth.

    Notes

    In this article, Gil applies his well-known analysis of Riau Indonesian (which he claims does not distinguish parts of speech; Gil 1994) to Tagalog, making in effect the same claims for both languages. His most significant claim is that Tagalog, like Riau Indonesian, possesses a single open syntactic category S. Key to his point is the idea that “anything can go anywhere”, that is, words in Tagalog do not seem to be limited in their syntactic distribution. If word class membership is defined in terms of syntactic distribution, then there is no basis for distinguishing syntactic categories in Tagalog. Gil notes that defining parts of speech in Tagalog via morphological criteria yields the same result, since almost any word can take voice-aspect morphology. While not every word in Tagalog can take voice-aspect morphology, the set of words which can appears to be lexically-specified — that is, they do not share any syntactic properties in common. This leaves Gil’s claim open to criticism, since, as various others have argued, the ability to take or not take voice-aspect morphology could be considered a valid criterion for distinguishing between different parts of speech.

    References

    • Gil, David. 1984. On the notion of 'direct object' in patient prominent languages. In Frans Plank (ed.), Objects: Towards a theory of grammatical relations, pp. 87–108. Academic Press.

    • Schachter, Paul. 1976. The subject in Philippine languages: Topic, actor, actor-topic, or none of the above? In Charles N. Li (ed.), Subject and topic, pp. 491–518. Academic Press.

    • Schachter, Paul. 1977. Reference-related and role-related properties of subjects. In P. Cole & Jerry M. Sadock (eds.), Syntax and Semantics 8: Grammatical relations, pp. 279–306. Academic Press.

  19. Taylor, John R. 2003. Linguistic categorization: Prototypes in linguistic theory, 3rd ed. Clarendon Press.

    Notes

    The central aim of this book is to show that linguistic categories are prototypal, i.e. exhibiting the properties of prototype-based categories. By this he means that categories a) often lack clear boundaries, b) have an internal structure wherein some members of the category are better representatives of the category than others, and c) the members of a category often show a family resemblance structure, i.e. they are a radial category. Taylor shows how prototype theory applies to linguistic categorization in three domains: 1) the categorization of experience (applying linguistic labels to our experience of the world); 2) the categorization of linguistic experience (abstracting linguistic types and schemas from individual tokens); and 3) the categorization of linguistic concepts (technical concepts and terminology in the field of linguistics). Taylor shows that all of these exhibit the behavior expected of prototype categories.

    This book was central in introducing linguists to the prototype theory of Rosch and Lakoff, and making these concepts more broadly accessible to the field. The book explicitly discusses several issues of central relevance for lexical flexibility, including polysemy and compositionality. Regarding lexical categories, Taylor notes that they exhibit a prototype structure as well, with some members of, for example, the category Noun being better members of the category than others. Taylor also questions the utility of the distinction between polysemy and homonymy; a more useful framework is to consider the various meanings of a form as having a family resemblance structure (meaning chains), wherein some meanings are more closely linked or related than others. This approach would also seem to be applicable to lexical flexibility: rather than viewing zero-derivation / conversion as a case of homonymy (or polysemy), it may be more useful to view those particular meanings of a form that have crossed the traditional part-of-speech boundary as simply non-central members of the lexeme’s meaning.

  20. Denison, David. 2018. Why would anyone take long? Word classes and Construction Grammar in the history of long (Constructional Approaches to Language 20). John Benjamins.

    Abstract

    I review the word classes proposed for long in such idiosyncratic English usages as I won’t be/take long, all night long. Although adverb fits most of the contentious data best, sometimes the word class is underdetermined. I suggest that long exhibits adjective ~ adverb underspecification from Old and Middle English onwards and can also be a semi-grammatical, decategorialised word. We need not assume that every word in every grammatical sentence must belong to one and only one word class (Denison 2013). At the phrasal level the distribution is less anomalous and correlates with semantic and pragmatic features. Accordingly, it is sensible to describe the history of such usages in Construction Grammar terms. Recent Danish developments make an intriguing comparison.

    Notes

    Denison argues that the word long in the history of English has undergone partial grammaticalization in certain of its senses, and in doing so has undergone a process of partial degrammaticalization, so that in certain constructions it exhibits adjective~adverb underspecification. Denison lays out data from diachronic corpora to show the trajectory by which long developed each of its known uses. Denison thus falls into the class of theorists who explain lexical flexibility via appeal to categorial underspecification.

  21. Booij, Geert & Jenny Audring. 2018. Category change in construction morphology. In Kristel Van Goethem, Muriel Norde, Evie Coussé, & Gudrun Vanderbauwhede (eds.), Category change from a constructional perspective (Constructional Approaches to Language 20). John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/cal.20.08boo.

    Abstract

    Morphological constructions can be formalized as schemas that specify semantic and formal output properties of complex words. Such schemas impose these output properties on their constituent words through various coercion mechanisms. In this article we focus on coercion-by-override and the concomitant category change. Our data are mainly from Dutch. The meaning of a syntactic or morphological construction can override the lexical meaning of a word in that construction. Morphological schemas may therefore change the semantic class of the base word. Semantic coercion may be accompanied by changes in word class. Morphological schemas may receive a higher degree of productivity within certain syntactic constructions, a phenomenon known as embedded productivity. Thus, morphological schemas contribute to the creativity and flexibility of the language system.

    Notes

    Booij & Audring summarize the way in which category change is handled within the framework of construction morphology, and exemplify this process with data from Dutch. In the construction morphology approach of Booij (2010), items of one syntactic category may appear in slots for words of other syntactic categories. This is taken to hold for both syntactic and morphological constructions. This approach implies that words are prespecified for their syntactic category, but that this category may be “overridden” in certain contexts, and that these categories may be cleanly delineated. Thus a construction morphology approach to lexical flexibility still contains latent assumptions stemming from classical parts of speech theory.

    References

    • Booij, Geert. 2010. Construction morphology. Oxford University Press.

  22. Swadesh, Morris. 1933. The internal economy of the Nootka word. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Linguistics, Yale University.

    Abstract

    In Nootka, it is necessary to distinguish the word as a lexical unit from the word as a syntactic unit. The lexical word is a close-knit phonetic and semantic unit built out of a stem and any number of formative suffixes. As used in the sentence, the word may have the form of the basic lexical unit or may consist of the latter with the addition of any number of incremental suffixes which are phonetically and, to a certain extent, semantically distinguishable from formative suffixes.

    Incremental suffixes have the function of rounding out the word into a predication or otherwise preparing it for its function in the sentence; they express ideas of time, voice, mode, and person. Formative suffixes have the function of building up the lexical or unextended word on the basis of the stem; they include aspect formatives and derivational suffixes.

    Formal word types (parts of speech) in Nootka are two: particles and normal words. Particles include syntactic, imperative, and interjectional elements; they are characterized by a simple structure, a lack of aspect implication, and a limited capacity for extension by means of incremental suffixes. Normal words are all verbal in fundamental nature; they are formally characterized by a potentially polysynthetic structure, a definite aspect implication, and unlimited capacity for extension by means of incremental suffixes.

    The unextended word is semantically a potential predication concerning the potential subject of the word. (The term “subject of the word” is justified in Nootka because subject pronouns in the form of incremental suffixes are attachable to any normal word.) Some words constitute a unified potential predication, others a compound potential predication, depending on the type of derivational suffix employed in the construction of the word. Thus, ther is one type of suffix that always makes the word into a unified potential predication; suffixes of this type may be called governing suffixes. Another type of suffix sets a secondary potential predication alongside the original one and builds thus a compound potential predication; suffixes of this type may be called restrictive suffixes.

    The units in derivation are the underlying theme and the derivational suffix and the meaning of the derived form is a function of the meaning of these two units. To understand the semantics of derivation in Nootka, it is necessary to classify underlying themes and derivational suffixes according to semantic content. To this purpose, the following semantic classes are proposed: substantive (e.g., “to be a house”), state (e.g., “to be erect”), action (e.g., “to jump”), location (e.g., “to be in the houes”), time (e.g., “to be at night”), quantity (e.g., “to be three”), specification (e.g., “to be this one”). It is important to note that these are semantic and not formal classes; for, aside from particles, there is only one formal class, essentially verbal. The classification holds for derivational suffixes as well as themes except that the distinction bewteen governing and restrictive derivational suffixes is of even more fundamental importance. In addition to themes belonging to one or another of these classes, there are restricted themes (built up by means of restrictive suffixes and expressing compound potential predications) belonging to two or more semantic classes at once.

    The derivational economy of Nootka tends on the whole to be mechanical in nature, but two interfering processes need to be recognized: implicit derivation and specialization. By implicit derivation, a theme takes on the meaning of a derivative of that theme (e.g., “knife in the hand” is used for “having a knife in the hand”). By specialization, a theme that should have a general reference is used to refer to something more particular (e.g., “big creature” is the regular expression for “whale”). While specialization and some instances of implicit derivation are sporadic and unpredictable, there are certain types of implicit derivation that are actually or almost regular.

    Notes

    Swadesh’s Ph.D. dissertation at Yale under Edward Sapir, this work provides a description of word structure and lexical semantics in Nuuchahnulth (a.k.a. Nootka; Wakashan > Southern Wakashan, British Colombia). Swadesh famously makes the claim that “Normal words [in Nuuchahnulth] are all verbal in fundamental nature” (p. iv), and that they are all of one type (i.e. a single lexical category). However, Swadesh also notes various selectional restrictions for certain affixes which partition the lexicon, such as a strict separation between suffixes which may attach to numeral stems vs. non-numeral stems (p. 112), or that certain suffixes require a “substantive” stem (p. 113). As such, Swadesh’s categorization of the lexicon is based on semantic meaning, and comprises the following: substantive (entity), state, action, location, time, quantity, and specification (indication). Swadesh partitions the lexicon in this way on the basis of the existence of a set of seven “special reference stems” which express these categories, and assumes that these stems represent a fundamental set of categories in the lexicon, despite there being no formal evidence elsewhere in the language. (Here, Swadesh anticipates what Levinson & Burenhult (2009) refer to as a semplate, or a semantic template that operates in more than one area of the grammar.) Swadesh also discusses various idiosyncrasies in the lexicon, in particular implicit derivation and specialization. In implicit derivation, a derived stem takes on a meaning that is more than the sum of its parts, e.g. a derived form that literally means ‘knife in hand’ is in actual practice used to mean ‘having a knife in hand’ (p. iv; pp. 43ff.). Some of these cases fall into classes of regular patterns, and others are idiosyncratic. By specialization, Swadesh refers to the use of a derived stem to refer to something more specific than the meaning of its parts implies, e.g. the use of a form literally meaning ‘big creature’ to mean ‘whale’ (p. 54). Like implicit derivation, some cases of specialization follow certain general patterns, while others are idiosyncratic.

    References

    • Levinson, Stephen C. & Niclas Burenhult. 2009. Semplates: A new concept in lexical semantics? Language 85(1): 153–174. doi:10.1353/lan.0.0090.

  23. Vapnarsky, Valentina & Edy Veneziano. 2017. Lexical polycategoriality: Cross-linguistic, cross-theoretical and language acquisition approaches: An introduction. In Valentina Vapnarsky, & Edy Veneziano (eds.), Lexical polycategoriality: Cross-linguistic, cross-theoretical, and language acquisition approaches (Studies in Language Companion Series 182). John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/slcs.182.01val.

    Notes

    This chapter is an overview of the edited volume, Lexical polycategoriality: Cross-linguistic, cross-theoretical and language acquisition approaches, and introduction to the subject of lexical polycategoriality. The volume is one of the few recent ones that treats lexical flexibility as an object of empirical investigation in its own right. The editors, even though they have each conducted research into flexible lexemes (Lois & Vapnarsky 2003; Veneziano 2003; Lois & Vapnarsky 2006; Vapnarsky 2013), do not take a stance in this chapter on the theoretical analysis or cognitive reality of lexical flexibility, instead framing the items of interest as “identical or zero-related forms” (p. 5) which “present complex properties that make their categorial identity seem plural or indeterminate.” (p. 2). This allows the various authors to adopt their individual stances and interpretations of this phenomenon. Based on the chapters in this volume, the editors draw the conclusion that “although most languages exhibit such identical forms, there is a great variability in their extent, productivity, coherence as a formal class, and in their morphosyntactic, functional, and semantic properties.” (p. 3).

    While this chapter does include a brief (2-paragraph) history of research on lexical flexibility as well as a summary of the descriptive and theoretical issues in its study—including the manifold analytical positions that researchers have adopted toward lexical flexibility—the summary is cursory and feels somewhat rushed. As a consequence, it is difficult to ascertain the precise meaning of some definitions. I was left uncertain, for example, of the exact distinction intended between polycategoriality and polyfunctionality (at least on the basis of this chapter alone).

    It is worth comparing this chapter to van Lier & Rijkhoff’s (2013) introduction to the volume Flexible word classes: Typological studies of underspecified parts of speech—the only other edited volume on lexical flexibility I am aware of (though see Evans & Osada (2005) and van Lier (2017) for two volumes of the journal Linguistic Typology focused on lexical flexibility). As implied by the title of their volume, van Lier & Rijkhoff do not adopt a neutral stance toward the existence of flexible categories, whereas Vapnarsky & Valentina are careful to do so. van Lier & Rijkhoff’s introduction also offers a much more extensive overview of the descriptive stances taken towards lexical flexibility. However, Vapnarksy & Valentina include a valuable summary of language acquisition research as it relates to lexical flexibility—a perspective that is entirely absent from the van Lier & Rijkhoff volume. The present volume and its introductory chapter thus complements that of van Lier & Rijkhoff (2013) nicely, and broadens our understanding of lexical flexibility.

  24. Hengeveld, Kees, Jan Rijkhoff & Anna Siewierska. 2004. Parts-of-speech systems and word order. Journal of Linguistics 40(3): 527–570. DOI: 10.1017/S0022226704002762.

    Abstract

    This paper argues that the word order possibilities of a language are partly deter- mined by the parts-of-speech system of that language. In languages in which lexical items are specialized for certain functionally defined syntactic slots (e.g. the modifier slot within a noun phrase), the identifiability of these slots is ensured by the nature of the lexical items (e.g. adjectives) themselves. As a result, word order possibilities are relatively unrestricted in these languages. In languages in which lexical items are not specialized for certain syntactic slots, in that these items combine the functions of two or more of the traditional word classes, other strategies have to be invoked to enhance identifiability. In these languages word order constraints are used to make syntactic slots identifiable on the basis of their position within the clause or phrase. Hence the word order possibilities are rather restricted in these languages. Counterexamples to the latter claim all involve cases in which identifiability is ensured by morphological rather than syntactic means. This shows that there is a balanced trade-off between the syntactic, morphological, and lexical structure of a language.

    Notes

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  25. Baker, Mark C. 2003. Lexical categories: Verbs, nouns, and adjectives (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 102). Cambridge University Press.

    Abstract

    For decades, generative linguistics has said little about the differences between verbs, nouns, and adjectives. This book seeks to fill this theoretical gap by presenting simple and substantive syntactic definitions of these three lexical categories. Mark C. Baker claims that the various superficial differences found in particular languages have a single underlying source which can be used to give better characterizations of these “parts of speech.” These new definitions are supported by data from languages from every continent, including English, Italian, Japanese, Edo, Mohawk, Chichewa, Quechua, Choctaw, Nahuatl, Mapuche, and several Austronesian and Australian languages. Baker argues for a formal, syntax-oriented, and universal approach to the parts of speech, as opposed to the functionalist, semantic, and relativist approaches that have dominated the few previous works on this subject. This book will be welcomed by researchers and students of linguistics and by related cognitive scientists of language.

    Notes

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  26. Denison, David. 2013. Parts of speech: Solid citizens or slippery customers?. Journal of the British Academy 1: 151–185. DOI: 10.5871/jba/001.151.

    Abstract

    The ‘parts of speech’ which have played a fundamental role in most descriptions of grammar, from primary school curriculum to advanced linguistic theory, are explored in this article, which considers some intriguing changes in recent everyday English that challenge traditional assumptions about the definition and usefulness of word classes such as ‘pronoun’, ‘adjective’ and ‘noun’. The article raises important questions about what happens at the boundaries between these word classes and looks at how we can answer these questions—potentially changing the direction of both future linguistic research and pedagogical practice.

    Notes

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  27. Evans, Nicholas & Toshiki Osada. 2005. Mundari: The myth of a language without word classes. Linguistic Typology 9(3): 351–390. DOI: 10.1515/lity.2005.9.3.351.

    Abstract

    Mundari, an Austroasiatic language of India (Munda family), has often been cited as an example of a language without word classes, where a single word can function as noun, verb, adjective, etc. according to the context. These claims, originating in a 1903 grammar by the missionary John Hoffmann, have recently been repeated uncritically by a number of typologists. In this article we review the evidence for word class fluidity, on the basis of a careful anal- ysis of Hoffmann’s corpus as well as substantial new data, including a large lexical sample at two levels of detail. We argue that in fact Mundari does have clearly definable word classes, with distinct open classes of verb and noun, in addition to a closed adjective class, though there are productive possibilities for using all as predicates. Along the way, we elaborate a series of criteria that would need to be met before any language could seriously be claimed to lack a noun-verb distinction: most importantly strict compositionality, bidirectional flexibility, and exhaustiveness through the lexicon.

    Notes

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  28. Dixon, R. M. W. 2004. Adjective classes in typological perspective. In R. M. W. Dixon, & Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald (eds.), Adjective classes: A cross-linguistic typology (Explorations in Linguistic Typology 1). Oxford University Press.

    Notes

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  29. Corbett, Greville G. 1978. Universals in the syntax of cardinal numerals. Lingua 46(4): 355–368. DOI: 10.1016/0024-3841(78)90042-6. (link)

    Abstract

    The cardinal numerals of Russian cannot be assigned to discrete syntactic categories; they form a continuum from those like adjectives to those like nouns. ‘Nouniness’ increases with numerical value. They can all be generated from an underlying structure similar to that suggested by Perlmutter and Orešnik consisting of two NPs (but lacking the genitive marker, for there is strong evidence that the genitive marker should be inserted only in certain circumstances. The Russian situation appears to be general; two universals are proposed: firstly, that the syntactic behaviour of cardinal numerals falls between that of adjectives and nouns and, secondly, that if numerals vary in behaviour then the higher will be nounier. Evidence to support these universals can be drawn from various phenomena: agreement, possible plurality of the number, case marking of the noun, I-Deletion, word-order, number of the quantified noun, and the rules of distribution and deletion. The data are taken from a wide range of languages.

    Notes

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  30. Sapir, Edward & Morris Swadesh. 1939. Nootka texts: Tales and ethnological narratives with grammatical notes and lexical materials (Special Publications of the Linguistic Society of America: William Dwight Whitney Linguistic Series). Linguistic Society of America.

    Notes

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  31. van Lier, Eva. 2017. Introduction: Lexical flexibility in Oceanic languages. Studies in Language 41(2): 241–254. DOI: 10.1075/sl.41.2.01van.

    Notes

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  32. van Lier, Eva (ed.). 2017. Lexical flexibility in Oceanic languages (Studies in Language 41). John Benjamins.

    Notes

    This is a special issue of the journal Linguistic Typology devoted to the description of lexical flexibility in Oceanic languages. The individual articles within this issue are also included within this bibliography.

  33. Lois, Ximena & Valentina Vapnarsky. 2003. Polyvalence of root classes in Yukatekan Mayan languages (LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics). LINCOM Europa.

    Notes

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  34. Veneziano, Edy. 2003. The emergence of noun and verb categories in the acquisition of French. Psychology of Language & Communication 7(1): 23–36.

    Abstract

    This paper considers whether the child’s early vocabulary shows signs of being organized into word categories. Two main kinds of evidence are looked for: i. differential production of fillers (referred to here more neutrally as Prefixed Additional Elements); ii. relevant phonomorphologi- cal variation for verb-words, and only in them. Results of analyses of natural speech production provided by the longitudinal studies of two French acquiring children followed between the ages of 1;3 and 2;3, show that there is a first period in which words seem to constitute one, formally undifferentiated, set. Differentiation between noun-words and verb-words appears progressively, as evidenced by the differential occurrence of PAEs in prenominal and in preverbal positions, and in the appearance of phonomorphologically relevant variations only in words that are verbs in the language. Looking at connected aspects of language, other phenomena are observed to occur at the same time, in particular, a significant increase in the production of multiword speech, that becomes the dominant way of expression.

    Notes

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  35. Lois, Ximena & Valentina Vapnarsky. 2006. Introduction. In Ximena Lois, & Valentina Vapnarsky (eds.), Lexical categories and root classes in Amerindian languages. Peter Lang.

    Notes

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  36. Vapnarsky, Valentina. 2013. Is Yucatec Maya an omnipredicative language? Predication, the copula and focus constructions. STUF 66(1): 40–86. DOI: 10.1524/stuf.2013.0004.

    Abstract

    In this article, we examine the omnipredicativity hypothesis (Launey 1994, 2004) in the context of Yucatec Maya.The hypothesis implies three requirements: 1) most words are predicative, 2) the focus of a sentence is its main predicate, 3) arguments are subordinate predicates of the main predicate. Based on the analysis of the personal indexation patterns, morphosyntactic and semantic properties of non-verbal predicates, the use of the existential yàan and various focus constructions, we provide evidence supporting that requirements 1 and 2 apply to Yucatec.

    Notes

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  37. Launey, Michel. 1994. Une grammaire omniprédicative: Essai sur la morphosyntaxe du nahuatl classique (Sciences du Langage). CNRS.

    Abstract

    Qu’est-ce que dire quelque chose de quelque chose ou de quelqu’un? Les fonctions de prédication et de désignation sont-elles irréductibles? Et chacune d’entre elles est-elle spécifiquement attachée à une catégorie lexicale? Et chacune d’entre elles est-elle spécifiquement attachée à une catégorie lexicale? Cet ouvrage présente et analyse un système grammatical, celui du nahuatl (ou: aztèque) dit «classique», dans lequel les réponses aux deux dernières questions sont négatives. Dans un tel système, que l’auteur suggère d’appeler omniprédicatif, tous les items lexicaux sont des prédicables, et la désignation est clairement dérivée de la prédication. Cette propriété remet en question certaines conceptions courantes, en particulier sur la construction des groupes syntagmatiques, mais elle laisse intacte l’opposition verbo-nominale, que représente bien deux formes polaires de la prédication.

    Notes

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  38. Launey, Michel. 2004. The features of omnipredicativity in Classical Nahuatl. STUF 57(1): 49–69. DOI: 10.1524/stuf.2004.57.1.49.

    Abstract

    Classical Nahuatl displays a bundle of morphosyntactic features which together form what the author suggests to call the omnipredicative type. In this type, the syntactic hub of the sentence is its informative part (call it comment, focus, or rheme according to the terminological tradition), be it a verb, a noun, or any kind of word. Although they behave similarly from a syntactic point of view, the different “parts of speech” nonetheless keep their other distinctive characteristics. This article gives evidence for such an analysis & shows how omnipredicativity challenges some deep rooted conceptions about word order & makes inapplicable some notions such as the pro-drop parameter & wh-movement. In its final part, it points out a list of 11 apparently independent features which together reinforce the type & make Nahuatl a prototypical omnipredicative language, before opening into wider questions about predication.

    Notes

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  39. van Lier, Eva & Jan Rijkhoff. 2013. Flexible word classes in linguistic typology and grammatical theory. In Eva van Lier, & Jan Rijkhoff (eds.), Flexible word classes: Typological studies of underspecified parts of speech. Oxford University Press.

    Notes

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  40. Creissels, Denis. 2017. The flexibility of the noun/verb distinction in Mandinka. In Valentina Vapnarsky, & Edy Veneziano (eds.), Lexical polycategoriality: Cross-linguistic, cross-theoretical, and language acquisition approaches (Studies in Language Companion Series 182). John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/slcs.182.02cre.

    Abstract

    In Mandinka, a Mande language, it is easy to identify words fulfilling the function of verbal head of a clause or nominal head of a noun phrase, but the division of lexemes into a class of nominal lexemes and a class of verbal lexemes is problematic, due to their categorial flexibility. This article argues that three major classes or lexemes must be distinguished: verbal lexemes (whose nominal use is fully predictable and can conveniently be analyzed as morphologically unmarked nominalization), nominal lexemes (whose verbal use is limited to the expression of ‘provide someone with X’), and verbo-nominal lexemes (whose nominal and verbal uses are equally productive, and at the same time cannot be related to each other by any general rule).

    Notes

    Creissels’ chapter on ‘The flexibility of the noun/verb distinction in the lexicon of Mandinka’ is a careful examination of evidence for and against polycategoriality in Mandinka (Mande; West Africa). While Mandinka has clear nominal and verbal constructions that allow the predicative and referring functions to be distinguished unambiguously, it is not as easy to separate lexemes themselves into similar classes, owing to the fact that no Mandinka lexemes are used exclusively in verbal constructions—all Mandinka lexemes may occur in nominal constructions as well. While Creissels does not dispute this fact, he shows that there is a crucial distinction to be made between two classes of lexemes: 1) those whose nominal use is predictable and therefore analyzable as a case of zero-marked conversion from one category (verb) to another (noun) - these are always event nominalizations; and 2) those whose meaning in nominal constructions is idiosyncratic and therefore not predictable. Creissels calls the former verbal lexemes and the latter verbo-nominal lexemes. Creissels states that both classes of lexemes exhibit categorial flexibility, just of different natures. There is also a small set of nominal lexemes used marginally as verbs. These cases are always semantically predictable. This chapter is thus a great example of how lexical flexibility has varied realizations, even within a single language.

  41. Kerleroux, Françoise. 2017. Derivationally based homophony in French. In Valentina Vapnarsky, & Edy Veneziano (eds.), Lexical polycategoriality: Cross-linguistic, cross-theoretical and language acquisition approaches (Studies in Language Companion Series 182). John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/slcs.182.03ker.

    Abstract

    French reveals many cases of homophony, which raise the question of categorial flexibility. This paper analyses Verb/Noun pairs with identical form and com- pares them to Verb/Noun pairs with overt derivation. It is argued that French homophony phenomena are based on non-affixal derivational morphology (conversion). The study is conducted within the framework of lexical constructional morphology, with the underlying hypothesis that lexical units or lexemes used in the construction of complex lexemes are characterised by three correlated properties – phonological form, semantic interpretation and category. In this framework, the affixal formants are regarded as exponents of the derivation rules. The analysis concludes by returning to Saussure’s key proposals about the sign and its differential.

    Notes

    This chapter by Françoise Kerleroux† is a descriptive study of conversion in French—a language not typically included in discussions of lexical polycategoriality—based in part on data on conversion collected in Tribout (2010). Kerleroux shows that French has several categories of conversion: deverbal process nominals, deverbal object nominals, and denominal verbs. The semantic shifts that these categories of conversion undergo are the same as those engendered by overtly-marked derivational processes, suggesting perhaps that the zero-marked cases are also derived rather than underspecified or polycategorial. However, given that the categories of semantic shift involved are quite broad, it is not clear how decisively this evidence should be taken.

    Kerleroux treats identical forms as cases of derivationally-based homophony (i.e. two distinct lexemes that happen to have the same form) rather than a case of flexibility or underspecification. This position stems from the author’s theoretical commitment to lexical morphology (a.k.a. construction morphology), in which any unique combination of form, semantic interpretation, and category constitutes a distinct lexeme. Thus the semantic difference between hache ‘axe’ and hacher ‘chop’ is indicative of a lexical difference. A potential issue with this perspective is that the notion of “degree of semantic shift” is vaguely defined. How great a semantic shift is necessary before one should consider two identical wordforms to be different lexemes? For example, should different inflectional forms constitute distinct lexemes? An excellent example of this problem is pluractional (e.g. distributive, iterative, etc.) morphology crosslinguistically. Within a single language, the appearance of pluractional morphology may in some cases be considered derivational (because of the idiosyncratic meaning of the resultant form), and in other cases inflectional (because of the predictable meaning of the resultant form). At a more abstract level, if the boundary between inflection and derivation is vague to begin with (which is generally accepted to be the case), it seems difficult if not impossible to determine the precise point at which the semantic change becomes great enough for a wordform to be considered a new lexeme, especially in the absence of any overt marking.

    Because the homophony-based analysis offered here is a theoretical assumption rather than an empirically-validated position, this chapter functions primarily as an exemplification of the lexical morphology approach as applied to cases of conversion in French. The chapter therefore belongs to a category of articles which adopt a particular framework, and use that framework to provide a descriptive analysis of cases of conversion, as opposed to determining which theoretical positions are suggested by the data via a process of induction or inference to the best explanation.

  42. Tribout, Delphine. 2010. Les conversions de nom à verbe et de verbe à nom en français. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Paris Diderot-Paris 7, Department of Linguistics.

    Notes

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  43. Kihm, Alain. 2017. Categorial flexibility as an emergent phenomenon: A comparison of Arabic, Wolof, and French. In , Lexical polycategoriality: Cross-linguistic, cross-theoretical and language acquisition approaches (Studies in Language Companion Series 182). John Benjamins.

    Abstract

    The present paper takes the view that categorial flexibility (CF, also called polycategoriality), i.e. having the “same” items function both as nouns and verbs, is not a possible substantial property of lexemes. Given the semantic quirks that often characterize such alternative uses (e.g. a tree vs. to tree), assuming CF leads one to posit roots endowed with general and vague meanings, the grammatical and cognitive reality of which appears highly dubious. Lexemes ought therefore to be viewed as rigidly categorized with precise meanings. CF is an emergent phenomenon that results when nouns and verbs share more or less loose seman- tic networks with the language-particular morphological property that they do not or minimally differ in their forms.

    Notes

    Kihm’s chapter begins with the premise that lexical flexibility does not exist. Lexemes in Kihm’s view are always rigidly categorized, with precise meanings. This position stems in part from the fact that adopting a lexical flexibility analysis requires assuming general and vague meanings, “the grammatical and cognitive reality of which appear highly dubious” (p. 79). It also derives from Kihm’s commitment to the Word & Paradigm tradition in morphology, in which morphology only has grammatical and cognitive reality insofar as it can be abstracted away from specific wordforms. The question advanced by Kihm, then, is not whether lexical flexibility exists or how it is realized, but rather what accounts for the appearance of lexical flexibility, and why do some languages appear to have a greater degree of lexical flexibility than others?

    Kihm’s answer is at one level somewhat simplistic: The appearance of lexical flexibility results from the fact that identical wordforms used in different parts of speech sometimes, due to shared histories, have semantically related meanings. When this phenomenon is frequent it gives the impression of rampant lexical flexibility. Kihm’s position is however informed by the cognitive linguistics literature, and relies on the notion of lexical networks and family resemblances, which are well known to be at work in lexical semantics (Taylor 2003). This position also has an empirical prediction regarding the appearance of lexical flexibility: languages in which roots can often be identical to fully-inflected wordforms (such as Wolof) should present the appearance of flexibility to a greater degree than languages in which is this is not often the case (such as Arabic and other Semitic languages). Kihm’s chapter convincingly shows that this is the case. For those that believe in the cognitive reality of lexical flexibility, provides evidence for the idea that languages of certain morphological types may exhibit more or less flexibility than others.

  44. Trousdale, Graeme. 2018. Change in category membership from the perspective of construction grammar. In Kristel Van Goethem, Muriel Norde, Evie Coussé, & Gudrun Vanderbauwhede (eds.), Category change from a constructional perspective (Constructional Approaches to Language 20). John Benjamins. DOI: 10.1075/cal.20.11tro.

    Notes

    This chapter summarizes the contributions of the volume, Category change from a constructional perspective (Van Goethem et al. 2018), with the aim of understanding the notion of a linguistic category in the perspective of construction grammar. It highlights the roles of schema formation and analogy in category change, and emphasizes the centrality of gradualness / gradience in this process. The chapter provides a useful overview of some of the major insights of the chapters in this volume.

    References

    • Van Goethem, Kristel, Muriel Norde, Evie Coussé & Gudrun Vanderbauwhede (eds.), Category change from a constructional perspective (Constructional Approaches to Language 20), pp. 291–308. John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/cal.20.11tro