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LINGUIST List 21.1059

Thu Mar 04 2010

Diss: Syntax/Typology: Morcom: 'The Universality and Demarcation of...'

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        1.    Lindsay Morcom, The Universality and Demarcation of Lexical Categories Cross-Linguistically

Message 1: The Universality and Demarcation of Lexical Categories Cross-Linguistically
Date: 03-Mar-2010
From: Lindsay Morcom <lindsay.weichelling-phil.ox.ac.uk>
Subject: The Universality and Demarcation of Lexical Categories Cross-Linguistically
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Institution: University of Oxford
Program: Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Lindsay Anne Morcom

Dissertation Title: The Universality and Demarcation of Lexical Categories Cross-Linguistically

Linguistic Field(s): Syntax

Subject Language(s): Michif (crg)
Language Family(ies): Salishan

Dissertation Director:
Mary Dalrymple
Aditi Lahiri
Paloma Garcia Bellido

Dissertation Abstract:

Drawing data from a variety of sources, this thesis compares functional
evidence regarding lexical categories from a number of Salish and
Wakashan languages, as well as from the Michif language. It then
applies Prototype Theory to examine the structure of the lexicons of
these languages. They are described in terms of prototype categories
that overlap to varying extents, with each category and each area of
overlap defined by a central set of prototypical features.

A high degree of gradience appears to exist between categories in
Salish and Wakashan languages, with no clear boundary between
categories or areas of overlap, indicating that lexical categories in
these languages, rather than being clearly demarcated, are instead
fuzzy categories with very little distinguishing them. Categories in
Michif, on the other hand, exhibit far less overlap. This variation is
compared to variation in conceptual categories across languages, and
challenges the notions of the universality of clearly demarcated lexical
categories and the existence of separately stored language module in
the human mind.

In spite of the variation in lexical category demarcation observed
across the languages studied, it is possible to demarcate the
categories of Noun and Verb to at least some extent in all languages,
as well as a category of Adjective in some languages. This supports
the proposed universality of the categories of Noun and Verb, as well
as the implicational universals proposed in the Amsterdam Model of
Parts of Speech (Hengeveld 1992a, b). It is also possible to identify a
number of defining characteristics for each lexical category that appear
to hold across languages. Since similar characteristics can be
identified across languages for all categories, but the categories
themselves display varying degrees of overlap in individual languages,
this research supports the proposal that language universals, rather
than consisting of structures, rules, and categories that are identical in
all languages, are rather collections of prototypical characteristics for
grammatical categories that are similar across languages (Croft 2000).

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