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Is a unified terminology possible for grammar? LAGB September 2012 Terminology for nominal categories John Payne The University of Manchester
Two issues 1.Is it possible for grammarians to agree on a unified terminology? 2.Can a unified terminology exist for all languages?
Jespersen Parts of speech vs Functions SUBJUNCT tertiary rank ADJUNCT secondary rank PRINCIPAL primary rank ADVERBADJECTIVESUBSTANTIVE extremelyhotweather
PRINCIPAL ADJECTIVE thepoor ADJUNCTPRINCIPAL ?NOUN thebastardNormans TheNormanbastards
“While the distinction between primary, secondary, and tertiary is purely logical, the distinction between the three parts of speech is purely grammatical, and as such may vary from one language to another. In some languages, such as Finnish, there is no formal distinction between substantives and adjectives, which thus form together the one part of speech called “nouns” (in the old historical sense of Latin nomen, still preserved in German). In English, the two classes are kept apart with a fair degree of distinctness, especially by the formation of the plural.” Jespersen (1922:5)
Agreement on concept? Parts of speech: (1)noun (2)adjective (3) definite article Can be applied reasonably straightforwardly to western European languages.
Agreement on concept? Functions: (1)(principal) ~ head (2)adjunct ~ modifier No need for Jespersen’s tertiary rank
But: 1.Is the noun the head? DP hypothesisNP hypothesis functional head modifierlexical head determineradjectivenoun thejuicyapple determinermodifierhead determinativeadjectivenoun thejuicyapple Abney (1987)Payne & Huddleston (2002)
2. Complement vs Modifier? the English teacher the criminal lawyer
Basis for agreement? Preserve notions like “NP”, “DP”, “determinative” for linguistic theory, and agree on a standard terminology for basic concepts? Analogy: physicists call an electron an electron, regardless of whether they hypothesise it to be an indivisible particle, a vibrating string, or composed of smaller particles.
One proposal: NOUN PHRASE determinermodifierhead definite articleadjectivenoun thejuicyapple
Determiner function can be fulfilled by a variety of parts of speech: i. Definite article the and indefinite article a Ii, Demonstratives this and that iii. Universal quantifiers all and both iv. Genitive noun phrases, e.g. the architect’s v.Genitive pronouns: e.g. my etc.
No reason for failing to come to agreement on the individual terms for these items? Issues: “genitive” vs “possessive” “pronoun”
CASE Jespersen’s prime example of a formal category which differs from language to language. But we can use the same names for cases with similar functions cross-linguistically: e.g.nominative accusative genitive It may be better not to use the term “possessive”, which focusses on a narrow semantic definition, just as we might avoid “subjective case” or “objective case” which are closely tied to functions?
PRONOUN Jespersen had a very broad definition of “pronoun”, one which includes all the items (except genitive NPs not headed by a genitive pronoun) which can be determiners (from the to words like here and there). He is however very careful in stating the functions that each can carry out (principal only, adjunct only, or either principal or adjunct). In the terminological proposal made here, we do not need to say that words like all and both are pronouns or determiners. They are simply universal quantifiers.
determinerhead universal quantifiernoun bothapples head universal quantifier both I want both apples I want both
Abney, Stephen 1987. The English noun phrase in its sentential aspect. PhD thesis, MIT. Cambridge, Mass. Jespersen, Otto 1922. A modern English grammar on historical principles. Part II, vol 1. Heidelberg: Carl Winter’s Universitätsbuchhandlung. Payne, John & Rodney Huddleston 2002. Nouns and noun phrases. Chapter 5 of Rodney Huddleston & Geoffrey K. Pullum et al. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.