The fundamental importance of lexical categories is uncontroversial within both formal and functional approaches to grammatical analysis. But despite the familiarity of this topic and its foundational nature for grammatical description and analysis, it is paradoxically not among the best-studied or -understood topics from either the functionalist or formalist perspective. Both schools of linguistic theory have inherited their basic assumptions and instincts about lexical categories from the structuralist practice of distributional analysis. We briefly survey approaches to the various lexical categories. We then comment on a few issues of strategic value that arise from these approaches, including the importance of clearly distinguishing roots, stems, words, and syntactic units when it comes to issues of lexical categories; the importance of recognizing when distributional tests are similar across languages in principled ways; and the need for the choice of distributional tests to be informed by theoretical hypotheses.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Arad M. 2003. Locality constraints on the interpretation of roots: the case of Hebrew denominal verbs. Nat. Lang. Linguist. Theory 21:737–78 [Google Scholar]
  2. Baker M. 2003. Lexical Categories: Verbs, Nouns, and Adjectives Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  3. Baker M. 2008. The Syntax of Agreement and Concord Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  4. Baker M. 2009. On some ways to test Tagalog nominalism from a crosslinguistic perspective. Theor. Linguist. 35:63–71 [Google Scholar]
  5. Baker M. 2015a. Case: Its Principles and Its Parameters Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  6. Baker M. 2015b. Nouns, verbs, and verbal nouns: their structures and their structural cases. How Categorical Are Categories? New Approaches to the Old Questions of Noun, Verb, and Adjective J Blaszczak, K Migdalski 13–46 Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [Google Scholar]
  7. Bolinger D. 1967. Adjectives in English: attribution and predication. Lingua 18:1–34 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bolinger D. 1980a. Language: The Loaded Weapon London: Longmans [Google Scholar]
  9. Bolinger D. 1980b. Syntactic Diffusion and the Definite Article Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Linguist. Club [Google Scholar]
  10. Borer H. 2005. In Name Only New York: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  11. Broccias C, Hollmann WB. 2007. Do we need summary and sequential scanning in (cognitive) grammar. Cogn. Linguist. 18:487–522 [Google Scholar]
  12. Chafe W. 1977. The recall and verbalization of past experience. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory P Cole 215–46 Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  13. Chomsky N. 1970. Remarks on nominalization. Readings in English Transformational Grammar R Jacobs, P Rosenbaum 184–221 Waltham, MA: Ginn [Google Scholar]
  14. Chomsky N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding Dordrecht, Neth.: Foris [Google Scholar]
  15. Chung S. 2012. Are lexical categories universal? The view from Chamorro. Theor. Linguist. 38:1–56 [Google Scholar]
  16. Cinque G. 1990. Types of A-Bar Dependencies Cambridge, MA: MIT Press [Google Scholar]
  17. Coon J. 2009. Comments on Austronesian nominalism: a Mayan perspective. Theor. Linguist. 35:73–93 [Google Scholar]
  18. Croft W. 1984. Semantic and pragmatic correlates to syntactic categories. Papers from the Parasession on Lexical Semantics: 20th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society D Testen, V Mishra, J Drogo 53–71 Chicago: Univ. Chicago Dep. Linguist. [Google Scholar]
  19. Croft W. 1991. Syntactic Categories and Grammatical Relations: The Cognitive Organization of Information Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  20. Croft W. 2000. Parts of speech as typological universals and as language particular categories. Approaches to the Typology of Word Classes PM Vogel, B Comrie 65–102 Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [Google Scholar]
  21. Croft W. 2001. Radical Construction Grammar: Syntactic Theory in Typological Perspective Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  22. Croft W. 2003. Typology and Universals Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2nd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  23. Croft W. 2004. Logical and typological arguments for Radical Construction Grammar. Construction Grammar(s): Cognitive and Cross-Language Dimensions M Fried, J-O Östman 273–314 Amsterdam: Benjamins [Google Scholar]
  24. Croft W. 2005. Word classes, parts of speech and syntactic argumentation. Commentary on Evans and Osada, “Mundari: the myth of a language without word classes. Linguist. Typol. 9:431–41 [Google Scholar]
  25. Croft W. 2007a. Beyond Aristotle and gradience: a reply to Aarts. Stud. Lang. 31:409–30 [Google Scholar]
  26. Croft W. 2007b. The origins of grammar in the verbalization of experience. Cogn. Linguist. 18:339–82 [Google Scholar]
  27. Croft W. 2009. Methods for finding language universals in syntax. Universals of Language Today S Scalise, E Magni, A Bisetto 145–64 Berlin: Springer [Google Scholar]
  28. Croft W. 2010a. Pragmatic function, semantic classes and lexical categories. Commentary on Smith, “Pragmatic functions and lexical categories”. Linguistics 48:787–96 [Google Scholar]
  29. Croft W. 2010b. Ten unwarranted assumptions in syntactic argumentation. Language Usage and Language Structure K Bøye, E Engberg-Pedersen 313–50 Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [Google Scholar]
  30. Croft W. 2010c. Relativity, linguistic variation and language universals. CogniTextes 4:303 http://cognitextes.revues.org/303/ [Google Scholar]
  31. Croft W. 2014. Comparing categories and constructions crosslinguistically (again): the diversity of ditransitives. Review article on Studies in Ditransitive Constructions: A Comparative Handbook. Andrej Malchukov, Martin Haspelmath and Bernard Comrie Linguist. Typol 18533–51 [Google Scholar]
  32. Croft W. 2016. Comparative concepts and language-specific categories: theory and practice. Linguist. Typol. 20:377–93 [Google Scholar]
  33. Croft W, Poole KT. 2008. Inferring universals from grammatical variation: multidimensional scaling for typological analysis. Theor. Linguist. 34:1–37 [Google Scholar]
  34. Croft W, Van Lier E. 2012. Language universals without universal categories. Commentary on Sandra Chung, “Are lexical categories universal? The view from Chamorro. Theor. Linguist. 38:57–72 [Google Scholar]
  35. Davis H, Gillon C, Matthewson L. 2014. How to investigate linguistic diversity: lessons from the Pacific Northwest. Language 90:e180–226 [Google Scholar]
  36. Dixon RMW. 1977. Where have all the adjectives gone?. Stud. Lang. 1:19–80 [Google Scholar]
  37. Dixon RMW. 2010. Basic Linguistic Theory 2 Grammatical Topics Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  38. Dryer MS. 1997. Are grammatical relations universal?. Essays on Language Function and Language Type J Bybee, J Haiman, SA Thompson 115–43 Amsterdam: Benjamins [Google Scholar]
  39. Evans N, Osada O. 2005. Mundari: the myth of a language without word classes. Linguist. Typol. 9:352–90 [Google Scholar]
  40. Finegan E. 2006. Language: Its Structure and Use Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 5th ed.. [Google Scholar]
  41. Givón T. 1979. On Understanding Grammar New York: Academic [Google Scholar]
  42. Givón T. 2001. Syntax. Volume I. Amsterdam: Benjamins [Google Scholar]
  43. Greenberg JH. 1966. Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements. Universals of Grammar JH Greenberg 73–113 Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2nd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  44. Gross M. 1979. On the failure of generative grammar. Language 55:859–85 [Google Scholar]
  45. Haspelmath M. 1997. Indefinite Pronouns Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  46. Haspelmath M. 2003. The geometry of grammatical meaning: semantic maps and cross-linguistic comparison. The New Psychology of Language M Tomasello 2211–42 Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum [Google Scholar]
  47. Haspelmath M. 2007. Pre-established categories don't exist: consequences for language description and typology. Linguist. Typol. 11:119–32 [Google Scholar]
  48. Haspelmath M. 2010a. Comparative concepts and descriptive categories in cross-linguistic studies. Language 86:663–87 [Google Scholar]
  49. Haspelmath M. 2010b. The interplay between comparative concepts and descriptive categories (reply to Newmeyer). Language 86:696–99 [Google Scholar]
  50. Haspelmath M. 2012. How to compare major word classes across the world's languages. UCLA Work. Pap. Linguist. 17:109–30 [Google Scholar]
  51. Hengeveld K. 1992. Non-Verbal Predication: Theory, Typology, Diachrony Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [Google Scholar]
  52. Hengeveld K, Mackenzie JL. 2008. Functional Discourse Grammar: A Typologically-Based Theory of Language Structure Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  53. Hengeveld K, Rijkhoff J, Siewierska A. 2004. Parts of speech systems and word order. J. Linguist. 40:527–70 [Google Scholar]
  54. Hengeveld K, Van Lier E. 2010. An implicational map of parts of speech. Linguist. Discov. 8:129–56 [Google Scholar]
  55. Hopper P, Thompson SA. 1984. The discourse basis for lexical categories in universal grammar. Language 60:703–52 [Google Scholar]
  56. Jackendoff R. 1977. X-Bar Syntax Cambridge, MA: MIT Press [Google Scholar]
  57. Johns A. 1992. Deriving ergativity. Linguist. Inq. 23:57–88 [Google Scholar]
  58. Kaufman D. 2009. Austronesian nominalism and its consequences: a Tagalog case study. Theor. Linguist. 35:1–49 [Google Scholar]
  59. Kayne R. 1984. Connectedness and Binary Branching Dordrecht, Neth.: Foris [Google Scholar]
  60. Keenan EL, Comrie B. 1977. Noun phrase accessibility and universal grammar. Linguist. Inq. 8:63–99 [Google Scholar]
  61. Koch K, Matthewson L. 2009. The lexical category debate in Salish and its relevance for Tagalog. Theor. Linguist. 35:125–37 [Google Scholar]
  62. Langacker RW. 1987a. Foundations of Cognitive Grammar I Theoretical Prerequisites Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  63. Langacker RW. 1987b. Nouns and verbs. Language 63:53–94 [Google Scholar]
  64. Langacker RW. 1999. Grammar and Conceptualization Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [Google Scholar]
  65. Langacker RW. 2008a. Cognitive Grammar: A Basic Introduction Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  66. Langacker RW. 2008b. Sequential and summary scanning: a reply. Cogn. Linguist. 19:571–84 [Google Scholar]
  67. Malouf R. 2000. Mixed Categories in the Hierarchical Lexicon Stanford, CA: Cent. Study Lang. Inf. [Google Scholar]
  68. Marantz A. 1997. No escape from syntax. Univ. Pa. Work. Pap. Linguist. 4:201–25 [Google Scholar]
  69. Perlmutter D, Postal P. 1984. The 1-advancement exclusiveness law. Studies in Relational Grammar D Perlmutter, C Rosen 281–125 Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  70. O'Grady W, Dobrovolsky M, Aronoff M. 1997. Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction Bedford, MA: St. Martins, 3rd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  71. Pustet R. 2003. Copulas: Universals in the Categorization of the Lexicon Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  72. Regier T, Khetarpal N, Majid A. 2013. Inferring semantic maps. Linguist. Typol. 17:89–105 [Google Scholar]
  73. Richards N. 2009. Nouns, verbs, and hidden structure in Tagalog. Theor. Linguist. 35:139–52 [Google Scholar]
  74. Rijkhoff J. 2008. On flexible and rigid nouns. Stud. Lang. 32:727–-52 [Google Scholar]
  75. Rijkhoff J, Van Lier E. 2013. Flexible Word Classes: Typological Studies of Underspecified Parts of Speech Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  76. Rogers P. 2016. Illustrating the prototype structures of parts of speech: a multidimensional scaling analysis MA thesis, Dep. Linguist., Univ. N. M., Albuquerque [Google Scholar]
  77. Sabbagh J. 2009. The category of predicates and predicate phrases in Tagalog. Theor. Linguist. 35:153–65 [Google Scholar]
  78. Stassen L. 1985. Comparison and Universal Grammar Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell [Google Scholar]
  79. Stassen L. 1997. Intransitive Predication Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  80. Stowell T. 1981. Origins of phrase structure PhD thesis, Dep. Linguist., MIT, Cambridge, MA [Google Scholar]
  81. Taylor JR. 2002. Cognitive Grammar Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  82. Topping D. 1973. Chamorro Reference Grammar Honolulu: Univ. Hawai'i Press [Google Scholar]
  83. Van Lier E. 2006. Parts-of-speech systems and dependent clauses: a typological study. Folia Linguist 40:239–304 [Google Scholar]
  84. Van Lier E. 2012. Reconstructing multifunctionality. Theor. Linguist. 38:119–35 [Google Scholar]
  85. Wetzer H. 1996. The Typology of Adjectival Predication Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [Google Scholar]
  86. Wierzbicka A. 1986. What's in a noun? (or: How do nouns differ in meaning from adjectives?). Stud. Lang. 10:353–89 [Google Scholar]
  87. Wierzbicka A. 1995. Adjectives versus verbs: the iconicity of part-of-speech membership. Syntacic Iconicity and Linguistic Freezes: The Human Dimension ME Landsberg 223–45 Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error