Approaches to the Typology of Word Classes

Approaches to the Typology of Word Classes

Approaches to the Typology of Word Classes

Approaches to the Typology of Word Classes

Synopsis

The history of word class research is characterized by two extreme positions. Up to the 19th century, it was believed that word classes were invariably of the Latin or Greek type and universal. In contrast to that, in the 20th century, the view prevailed that every language had its own specific and unique word class system. In the last decades, however, it has become apparent that despite the large number of word classes and word class systems there are typological restrictions with regard to the conceptualization of semantic features and morphosyntactic structures. the perspective of typology and language universals research. The authors in this volume discuss word class categorization in general (Part I), as well as word classes and word class systems of individual languages (Part II) from a typological-universal viewpoint and from diachronic and cross-linguistic perspectives.

Excerpt

The history of word class research is characterised by two extreme positions. Up to the 19th century it was believed that word classes were invariably of the Latin or Greek type and universal. in contrast to that, in the 20th century the view prevailed that every language had its own specific and unique word class system. in the last decades, however, it has become apparent that despite the large number of word classes and word-class systems there are typological restrictions with regard to the conceptualisation of semantic features and morphosyntactic structures.

This book approaches word classes and their categorial manifestations from the perspective of typology and language universals research. the authors in this volume discuss word class categorisation in general (Part I) as well as word classes and word class systems of individual languages (Part II) from a typological-universal viewpoint and from diachronic and cross-linguistic perspectives.

Part I, General studies, contains articles by Jan Anward on part-of-speech differentiation and flexibility, D.N.S. Bhat on sentential functions and lexicalisation, William Croft on parts of speech as language universals, Nicholas Evans on kinship verbs, David Gil on syntactic categories and eurocentricity, Jan Rijkhoff on the question when a language can have adjectives, Petra M. Vogel on grammatical isation and parts of speech and Anna Wierzbicka on lexical prototypes as a basis for identification of parts of speech.

Jan Anward develops a dynamic model of part-of-speech differentiation, where the “deep” organising factors of part-of-speech systems are motivated not by properties internal to such systems, but are factors which drive language development in general: maximisation of meaning, and minimisation of effort. Part-of-speech systems are what “happen” as a result of processes of successive syntagmatic and paradigmatic expansion, in which optimal use is made of lexical resources, through recycling of items in several functions. But new functions of old items must be identifiable. This means that each language must strike a balance between flexibility (recycling) and contrast (identification). the model draws its empirical evidence mainly from Swedish, but also from a small pilot sample of nine additional languages.

D.N.S. Bhat argues that word classes represent lexicalisations of different sentential functions. the function of modifying the head noun in a noun phrase, for example, gets lexicalised into a word class of adjectives, whereas that of referring to persons, objects or entities gets lexicalised into a word class of nouns. the characteristics that these word classes manifest are derivable from the sentential functions for which they have been lexicalised, and further, the word classes manifest these char-

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