A New Approach to English Grammar, on Semantic Principles

By R. M. W. Dixon | Go to book overview

3
Noun, adjective and verb types

The lexical words of a language can be grouped into a number of semantic types, each of which has a common meaning component, and a typical set of grammatical properties. One of the grammatical properties of a type is its association with a grammatical Word Class, or Part of Speech. (See § 1. 2.)

Chapters 4-6 contain brief sketches of the semantic and syntactic characters of those semantic types which are in English associated with the Verb class. Following chapters discuss the occurrence restrictions on specific syntactic constructions, providing explanations for these that link the meanings of the constructions with the meanings of semantic types. In this chapter I provide a brief summary of the semantic types associated with the Noun and Adjective classes in English and introduce the division into Primary and Secondary verb types.

One preliminary point should be stressed: semantic types are not mutually exclusive. The central representatives of a type tend to be frequently used words with a simple, general meaning; these do have unequivocal membership. But words of more specialised meaning may combine the semantic properties of more than one type. Offer, for instance, relates both to GIVING (the most frequent kind of offer is an offer to give something) and to SPEAKING (the person offering will usually employ words, although gestures could be used instead). Bite is basically a CORPOREAL verb, alongside eat, chew and swallow, but it can also be used--like cut--as an AFFECT verb, e.g. He bit/cut through the string. Generally, when a verb shares the semantic characteristics of two types, it will also blend their syntactic properties.

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