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Gregory D. S. Anderson
The Munda language family constitutes the westernmost branch of the widespread Austroasiatic language family. Munda formerly was considered sister to the rest of the phylum, then known as Mon-Khmer, but this has been revised, and Munda is considered as Austroasiatic as any other branch. The internal classification of the Munda languages is still disputed, but a clear North Munda group exists and is uncontroversial. Other higher-order internal divisions remain disputed, although low-level groups like Sora-Gorum or Gutob-Remo are clear and accepted by almost all researchers today.
Phonologically speaking, Munda languages make extensive use of glottal stop and pre-glottalized stops, nasal vowels, and retroflexion. Word level prosody shows Austroasiatic features with an overlay of South Asian areal features on the phrase level. Register and tone have been reported for individual languages such as creaky voice in Gorum and a low tone in Korku.
Nouns in Munda languages may encode a range of grammatical and local cases, person and number of possessors, and covert distinctions of animacy in agreement and other morphosyntactic features. Verbs in Munda languages can be quite complex, with subject and object as well as TAM encoding, transitivity, finiteness, etc. Kherwarian languages stand out in this regard as well as for the distributional facts of the subject clitics, where the preferred locus is enclitic to the word immediately preceding the verb. Systems of negation can be very complicated and show unexpected interactions with TAM marking in languages like Gutob.
Syntactically, Munda languages show many typical South Asian features such as verb-final structure, as well as non-finite structures, and in some cases switch reference systems or noun incorporation.
The current sociolinguistic and demographic contexts of the different Munda languages range from expanding and healthy with official status in the case of Santali to seriously endangered in the case of Gorum.
Jack B. Martin
The Muskogean languages are a family of languages indigenous to the southeastern United States. Members of the family include Chickasaw, Choctaw, Alabama, Koasati, Apalachee, Hitchiti-Mikasuki, and Muskogee (Creek). The trade language Mobilian Jargon is based on Muskogean vocabulary and grammar. The Muskogean languages all have SOV word order. Noun phrases are marked for subject or non-subject case. Alienable and inalienable possession is marked on possessed nouns. Agreement on verbs for subjects and objects is sensitive to agency. The languages have grammatical tone (used to indicate verbal aspect) and switch reference. Several of the languages have measured tense systems (indicating several degrees of distance in the past).
Natural language ontology is a branch of both metaphysics and linguistic semantics. Its aim is to uncover the ontological categories, notions, and structures that are implicit in the use of natural language, that is, the ontology that a speaker accepts when using a language. Natural language ontology is part of “descriptive metaphysics,” to use Strawson’s term, or “naive metaphysics,” to use Fine’s term, that is, the metaphysics of appearances as opposed to foundational metaphysics, whose interest is in what there really is.
What sorts of entities natural language involves is closely linked to compositional semantics, namely what the contribution of occurrences of expressions in a sentence is taken to be. Most importantly, entities play a role as semantic values of referential terms, but also as implicit arguments of predicates and as parameters of evaluation.
Natural language appears to involve a particularly rich ontology of abstract, minor, derivative, and merely intentional objects, an ontology many philosophers are not willing to accept. At the same time, a serious investigation of the linguistic facts often reveals that natural language does not in fact involve the sort of ontology that philosophers had assumed it does.
Natural language ontology is concerned not only with the categories of entities that natural language commits itself to, but also with various metaphysical notions, for example the relation of part-whole, causation, material constitution, notions of existence, plurality and unity, and the mass-count distinction.
An important question regarding natural language ontology is what linguistic data it should take into account. Looking at the sorts of data that researchers who practice natural language ontology have in fact taken into account makes clear that it is only presuppositions, not assertions, that reflect the ontology implicit in natural language.
The ontology of language may be distinctive in that it may in part be driven specifically by language or the use of it in a discourse. Examples are pleonastic entities, discourse referents conceived of as entities of a sort, and an information-based notion of part structure involved in the semantics of plurals and mass nouns. Finally, there is the question of the universality of the ontology of natural language. Certainly, the same sort of reasoning should apply to consider it universal, in a suitable sense, as has been applied for the case of (generative) syntax.
Wolfgang U. Dressler
Natural Morphology (NM) is a functionalist theory that aims to account for morphological preferences on the basis of extralinguistic motivations. It is hierarchically structured in three (partially conflicting) subtheories. The first subtheory of universal naturalness (markedness) focuses on cognitive and semiotic principles such as transparency, iconicity, and bi-uniqueness, which are modeled in terms of parametric relations. Within the second subtheory of typological naturalness (or adequacy), choices on the universal preference parameters are coordinated among themselves. The third subtheory of language-specific naturalness (also called language adequacy) elaborates on what is normal in the potential system of a specific language. NM also puts special emphasis on the interface of morphology with other linguistic and nonlinguistic components, opening thereby the new fields of morphopragmatics, morphonotactics (as a special part of morphonology), and extragrammatical morphology. A range of gradual clines are designed to assess not only transitions between adjacent components of grammar, but also within morphology between compounding, derivation, and inflection and for notions such as regularity–subregularity–irregularity/suppletion, degrees of productivity or number of headedness criteria. Theoretical constructs are supported by ample external evidence, especially from diachrony and psycholinguistics.
The term productivity most commonly applies to word formation, but in principle it can be applied to any linguistic process. A process is said to be productive if it applies without restriction to give rise to novel expressions, for instance, new words. Ideally, speakers apply productive processes without conscious deliberation and in principle they can be applied by any and all competent native speakers. Creative coining of words, by contrast, is typically a one-off intentional act (nonce word creation), often of one individual, and often with the aim of drawing attention to the coined word for the purposes of advertising, humor, and so on. Creative coining often involves extra-grammatical processes which cannot be described deterministically, unlike bona fide linguistic rules. However, many productive processes are restricted in various ways, and some of the extra-grammatical devices are very frequent, so the distinction between productive, grammatical word formation and (nonce) word creation is blurred.
Edwin L. Battistella
Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1890–1938) was a Russian émigré scholar who settled in Austria in 1922, serving as Head of Slavic Linguistics at the University of Vienna and participating in the Prague Linguistics Circle. Trubetzkoy wrote nearly 150 works on phonology, prosody, comparative linguistics, linguistic geography, folklore, literature, history, and political theory. His posthumously published Grundzüge der Phonologie (Principles of Phonology) is regarded as one of the key works in the science of phonology. Here Trubetzkoy, influenced by Saussurean insights, elaborated on the linguistic function of speech sounds, the role of oppositions, and markedness. He was also concerned with developing universal laws of phonological patterning, and his work involves the discussion of a wide variety of languages. The Grundzüge became the classic statement of part of Prague School linguistics, which later influenced both European and American linguistics, notably in Chomsky and Halle’s The Sound Pattern of English. Less well-known are Trubetzkoy’s historical and political works on Eurasia and Eurasianism. In Europe and Mankind, Trubetzkoy argued that Russia was not culturally part of Europe but should evolve to form its own political systems based on its geography and common legacy with the peoples of Eurasia.
Howard Lasnik and Terje Lohndal
Noam Avram Chomsky is one of the central figures of modern linguistics. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 7, 1928. In 1945, Chomsky enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, where he met Zellig Harris (1909–1992), a leading Structuralist, through their shared political interests. His first encounter with Harris’s work was when he proof-read Harris’s book Methods in Structural Linguistics, published in 1951 but completed already in 1947. Chomsky grew dissatisfied with Structuralism and started to develop his own major idea that syntax and phonology are in part matters of abstract representations. This was soon combined with a psychobiological view of language as a unique part of the mind/brain.
Chomsky spent 1951–1955 as a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, after which he joined the faculty at MIT under the sponsorship of Morris Halle. He was promoted to full professor of Foreign Languages and Linguistics in 1961, appointed Ferrari Ward Professor of Linguistics in 1966, and Institute Professor in 1976, retiring in 2002. Chomsky is still remarkably active, publishing, teaching, and lecturing across the world.
In 1967, both the University of Chicago and the University of London awarded him honorary degrees, and since then he has been the recipient of scores of honors and awards. In 1988, he was awarded the Kyoto Prize in basic science, created in 1984 in order to recognize work in areas not included among the Nobel Prizes. These honors are all a testimony to Chomsky’s influence and impact in linguistics and cognitive science more generally over the past 60 years. His contributions have of course also been heavily criticized, but nevertheless remain crucial to investigations of language.
Chomsky’s work has always centered around the same basic questions and assumptions, especially that human language is an inherent property of the human mind. The technical part of his research has continuously been revised and updated. In the 1960s phrase structure grammars were developed into what is known as the Standard Theory, which transformed into the Extended Standard Theory and X-bar theory in the 1970s. A major transition occurred at the end of the 1970s, when the Principles and Parameters Theory emerged. This theory provides a new understanding of the human language faculty, focusing on the invariant principles common to all human languages and the points of variation known as parameters. Its recent variant, the Minimalist Program, pushes the approach even further in asking why grammars are structured the way they are.
Nominalization refers both to the process by which complex nouns are created and to the complex nouns that are derived by that process. Nominalizations common in the languages of the world include event/result nouns, personal or participant nouns (agent, patient, location, etc.), as well as collectives and abstracts. It is common for nominalizations to be highly polysemous. Theoretical issues concerning nominalization typically stem from the question of how to account for this pervasive polysemy. Within generative grammar, both syntactic and lexicalist approaches have been proposed. The issue of polysemy in nominalization has also been of interest within cognitive and functional frameworks. The article considers, finally, the extent to which nominalization is subject to competition and blocking.
Nominal reference is central to both linguistic semantics and philosophy of language. On the theoretical side, both philosophers and linguists wrestle with the problem of how the link between nominal expressions and their referents is to be characterized, and what formal tools are most appropriate to deal with this issue. The problem is complex because nominal expression come in a large variety of forms, from simple proper names, pronouns, or bare nouns (Jennifer, they, books) to complex expressions involving determiners and various quantifiers (the/every/no/their answer). While the reference of such expressions is varied, their basic syntactic distribution as subjects or objects of various types, for instance, is homogeneous. Important advances in understanding this tension were made with the advent of the work of R. Montague and that of his successors. The problems involved in understanding the relationship between pronouns and their antecedents in discourse have led to another fundamental theoretical development, namely that of dynamic semantics. On the empirical side, issues at the center of both linguistic and philosophical investigations concern how to best characterize the difference between definite and indefinite nominals, and, more generally, how to understand the large variety of determiner types found both within a language and cross-linguistically. These considerations led to refining the definite/indefinite contrast to include fine-grained specificity distinctions that have been shown to be relevant to various morphosyntactic phenomena across the world’s languages. Considerations concerning nominal reference are thus relevant not only to semantics but also to morphology and syntax. Some questions within the domain of nominal reference have grown into rich subfields of inquiry. This is the case with generic reference, the study of pronominal reference, the study of quantifiers, and the study of the semantics of nominal number marking.
The noun-modifying clause construction (NMCC) in Japanese is a complex noun phrase in which a prenominal clause is dependent on the head noun. Naturally occurring instances of the construction demonstrate that a single structure, schematized as [[… predicate (finite/adnominal)] Noun], represents a wide range of semantic relations between the head noun and the dependent clause, encompassing some that would be expressed by structurally distinct constructions such as relative clauses, noun complement clauses, and other types of complex noun phrases in other languages, such as English. In that way, the Japanese NMCC demonstrates a clear case of the general noun-modifying construction (GNMCC), that is, an NMCC that has structural uniformity across interpretations that extend beyond the range of relative clauses.
One of the notable properties of the Japanese NMCC is that the modifying clause may consist only of the predicate, reflecting the fact that referential density is moderate in Japanese—arguments of a predicate are not required to be overtly expressed either in the main clause or in the modifying clause. Another property of the Japanese NMCC is that there is no explicit marking in the construction that indicates the grammatical or semantic relation between the head noun and the modifying clause. The two major constituents are simply juxtaposed to each other.
Successful construal of the intended interpretations of instances of such a construction, in the absence of explicit markings, likely relies on an aggregate of structural, semantic, and pragmatic factors, including the semantic content of the linguistic elements, verb valence information, and the interpreter’s real-world knowledge, in addition to the basic structural information.
Researchers with different theoretical approaches have studied Japanese NMCCs or subsets thereof. Syntactic approaches, inspired by generative grammar, have focused mostly on relative clauses and aimed to identify universally recognized syntactic principles. Studies that take the descriptive approach have focused on detailed descriptions and the classification of a wide spectrum of naturally occurring instances of the construction in Japanese. The third and most recent group of studies has emphasized the importance of semantics and pragmatics in accounting for a wide variety of naturally occurring instances.
The examination of Japanese NMCCs provides information about the nature of clausal noun modification and affords insights into languages beyond Japanese, as similar phenomena have reportedly been observed crosslinguistically to varying degrees.
Number is the category through which languages express information about the individuality, numerosity, and part structure of what we speak about. As a linguistic category it has a morphological, a morphosyntactic, and a semantic dimension, which are variously interrelated across language systems. Number marking can apply to a more or less restricted part of the lexicon of a language, being most likely on personal pronouns and human/animate nouns, and least on inanimate nouns. In the core contrast, number allows languages to refer to ‘many’ through the description of ‘one’; the sets referred to consist of tokens of the same type, but also of similar types, or of elements pragmatically associated with one named individual. In other cases, number opposes a reading of ‘one’ to a reading as ‘not one,’ which includes masses; when the ‘one’ reading is morphologically derived from the ‘not one,’ it is called a singulative. It is rare for a language to have no linguistic number at all, since a ‘one–many’ opposition is typically implied at least in pronouns, where the category of person discriminates the speaker as ‘one.’ Beyond pronouns, number is typically a property of nouns and/or determiners, although it can appear on other word classes by agreement. Verbs can also express part-structural properties of events, but this ‘verbal number’ is not isomorphic to nominal number marking. Many languages allow a variable proportion of their nominals to appear in a ‘general’ form, which expresses no number information. The main values of number-marked elements are singular and plural; dual and a much rarer trial also exist. Many languages also distinguish forms interpreted as paucals or as greater plurals, respectively, for small and usually cohesive groups and for generically large ones. A broad range of exponence patterns can express these contrasts, depending on the morphological profile of a language, from word inflections to freestanding or clitic forms; certain choices of classifiers also express readings that can be described as ‘plural,’ at least in certain interpretations. Classifiers can co-occur with other plurality markers, but not when these are obligatory as expressions of an inflectional paradigm, although this is debated, partly because the notion of classifier itself subsumes distinct phenomena. Many languages, especially those with classifiers, encode number not as an inflectional category, but through word-formation operations that express readings associated with plurality, including large size. Current research on number concerns all its morphological, morphosyntactic, and semantic dimensions, in particular the interrelations of them as part of the study of natural language typology and of the formal analysis of nominal phrases. The grammatical and semantic function of number and plurality are particularly prominent in formal semantics and in syntactic theory.
Within the Ryukyuan branch of the Japonic family of languages, present-day Okinawan retains numerous regional variants which have evolved for over a thousand years in the Ryukyuan Archipelago. Okinawan is one of the six Ryukyuan languages that UNESCO identified as endangered. One of the theoretically fascinating features is that there is substantial evidence for establishing a high central phonemic vowel in Okinawan although there is currently no overt surface [ï]. Moreover, the word-initial glottal stop [ʔ] in Okinawan is more salient than that in Japanese when followed by vowels, enabling recognition that all Okinawan words are consonant-initial. Except for a few particles, all Okinawan words are composed of two or more morae. Suffixation or vowel lengthening (on nouns, verbs, and adjectives) provides the means for signifying persons as well as things related to human consumption or production. Every finite verb in Okinawan terminates with a mood element. Okinawan exhibits a complex interplay of mood or negative elements and focusing particles. Evidentiality is also realized as an obligatory verbal suffix.
Old English (OE) is a cover term for a variety of dialects spoken in Britain ca. 5th–11th century. Most of the manuscripts on which the descriptive handbook tradition relies date from the latter part of the period. These late OE manuscripts were produced in Wessex and show a degree of uniformity interrupted by the Norman Conquest of 1066. Middle English (ME) covers roughly 1050–1500. The early part of the period, ca. pre-1350, is marked by great diversity of scribal practices; it is only in late ME that some degree of orthographic regularity can be observed.
The consonantal system of OE differs from the Modern English system. Consonantal length was contrastive, there were no affricates, no voicing contrast for the fricatives [f, θ, s], no phonemic velar nasal [ŋ], and [h-] loss was under way. In the vocalic system, OE shows changes that identify it as a separate branch of Germanic: Proto-Germanic (PrG) ē 1 > OE ǣ/ē, PrG ai > OE ā, PrG au > OE ēa. The non-low short vowels of OE are reconstructed as non-peripheral, differing from the corresponding long vowels both in quality and quantity. The so called “short” diphthongs usually posited for OE suggest a case for which a strict binary taxonomy is inapplicable to the data. The OE long vowels and diphthongs were unstable, producing a number of important mergers including /iː - yː/, /eː - eø/, /ɛː - ɛə/. In addition to shifts in height and frontness, the stressed vowels were subject to a series of quantity adjustments that resulted in increased predictability of vowel length. The changes that jointly contribute to this are homorganic cluster lengthening, ME open syllable lengthening, pre-consonantal and trisyllabic shortening. The final unstressed vowels of ME were gradually lost, resulting in the adoption of <-e># as a diacritic marker for vowel length.
Stress-assignment was based on a combination of morphological and prosodic criteria: root-initial stress was obligatory irrespective of syllable weight, while affixal stress was also sensitive to weight. Verse evidence allows the reconstruction of left-prominent compound stress; there is also some early evidence for the formation of clitic groups. Reconstruction of patterns on higher prosodic levels—phrasal and intonational contours—is hampered by lack of testable evidence.
Old and Middle Japanese are the pre-modern periods of the attested history of the Japanese language. Old Japanese (OJ) is largely the language of the 8th century, with a modest, but still significant number of written sources, most of which is poetry. Middle Japanese is divided into two distinct periods, Early Middle Japanese (EMJ, 800–1200) and Late Middle Japanese (LMJ, 1200–1600). EMJ saw most of the significant sound changes that took place in the language, as well as profound influence from Chinese, whereas most grammatical changes took place between the end of EMJ and the end of LMJ. By the end of LMJ, the Japanese language had reached a form that is not significantly different from present-day Japanese.
OJ phonology was simple, both in terms of phoneme inventory and syllable structure, with a total of only 88 different syllables. In EMJ, the language became quantity sensitive, with the introduction of a long versus short syllables. OJ and EMJ had obligatory verb inflection for a number of modal and syntactic categories (including an important distinction between a conclusive and an (ad)nominalizing form), whereas the expression of aspect and tense was optional. Through late EMJ and LMJ this system changed completely to one without nominalizing inflection, but obligatory inflection for tense.
The morphological pronominal system of OJ was lost in EMJ, which developed a range of lexical and lexically based terms of speaker and hearer reference. OJ had a two-way (speaker–nonspeaker) demonstrative system, which in EMJ was replaced by a three-way (proximal–mesial–distal) system.
OJ had a system of differential object marking, based on specificity, as well as a word order rule that placed accusative marked objects before most subjects; both of these features were lost in EMJ. OJ and EMJ had genitive subject marking in subordinate clauses and in focused, interrogative and exclamative main clauses, but no case marking of subjects in declarative, optative, or imperative main clauses and no nominative marker. Through LMJ genitive subject marking was gradually circumscribed and a nominative case particle was acquired which could mark subjects in all types of clauses.
OJ had a well-developed system of complex predicates, in which two verbs jointly formed the predicate of a single clause, which is the source of the LMJ and NJ (Modern Japanese) verb–verb compound complex predicates. OJ and EMJ also had mono-clausal focus constructions that functionally were similar to clefts in English; these constructions were lost in LMJ.
The onomasiological approach is a theoretical framework that emphasizes the cognitive-semantic component of language and the primacy of extra-linguistic reality in the process of naming. With a tangible background in the functional perspective of the Prague School of Linguistics, this approach believes that name giving is essentially governed by the needs of language users, and hence assigns a subordinate role to the traditional levels of linguistic description. This stance characterizes the onomasiological framework in opposition to other theories of language, especially generativism, which first tackle the form of linguistic material and then move on to meaning.
The late 20th and early 21st centuries have witnessed the emergence of several cognitive-onomasiological models, all of which share an extensive use of semantic categories as working units and a particular interest in the area of word-formation. Despite a number of divergences, such proposals all confront mainstream morphological research by heavily revising conventional concepts and introducing model-specific terminology regarding, for instance, the independent character of the lexicon, the (non-)regularity of word-formation processes, or their understanding of morphological productivity. The models adhering to such a view of language have earned a pivotal position as an alternative to dominant theories of word-formation.
The Northeast Asia is one of the unique points on the globe where there are many language isolates and portmanteau families. From a conservative point of view, the Japanese language is a member of such a portmanteau family that has recently and increasingly been called Japonic in the Western literature. While Japanese is unquestionably a member of this Japonic language family, which consists of two Japanese languages (Japanese itself and the moribund Hachijō language) and four or five relatively closely related Ryūkyūan languages (Amami, Okinawan, Miyako, Yaeyama, and possibly Yonaguni), attempts have also been made to establish a genetic relationship between Japanese and various other language families. Most of these attempts have been amateurish, a major exception being the Koreo-Japonic hypothesis, which still remains unproven as well. It is also quite likely that the Japonic language family (or, more precisely, Insular Japonic) is the only linguistic grouping whose genetic relationship can be established beyond any doubt. A genetic relationship is also likely to exist between Japonic and a number of fragmentarily attested languages that once flourished in the south and center of the Korean Peninsula, but that died out no later than 9th century A.D. The paucity of material available does not allow one to establish solid predictive-productive regular correspondences in many cases, but intuitively the genetic relationship seems to be a matter of fact. Anything beyond intuition, however, lies in the realm of conjecture and speculation. The alleged Koreo-Japonic relationship is best explained by a centuries-long contact relationship rather than by common origin, given such factors as the virtual absence of any kind of shared paradigmatic morphology, as well as by multiple problems in establishing the real (and not imaginable or made-to-fit) regular correspondences. The Japanese-“Altaic” hypothesis is even more speculative and far-fetched. Consequently, the conclusion is that the Japanese language or the Japonic language family has no demonstrable relationship with any other language family or language isolate on the planet.
Anna M. Thornton
Overabundance is the situation in which two (or more) inflectional forms are available to realize the same cell in the inflectional paradigm of a lexeme (i.e., to express the meaning arising from the combination of the lexical meaning of the lexeme and the morphosyntactic and morphosemantic feature values that define the cell). An example from English is dreamed / dreamt, both of which realize ‘dream.
Most linguists assume that overabundance can exist only as a transitional stage during diachronic change, and that any single speaker only uses one of the cell mates available in a community’s repertoire; besides, many assume that cell mates always differ according to geo-socio-stylistic conditions, or in meaning. However, corpus based studies of specific instances of overabundance have shown that there are cases of truly interchangeable cell mates, that a single speaker can use different cell mates even within the same utterance, and that some instances of overabundance are stably attested for centuries. Language standardization often aims at eliminating overabundance, but low frequency forms may escape elimination and remain in usage. Many principles assumed to regulate language acquisition (e.g., Clark’s Principle of Contrast) ban overabundance; however, forms acquired later than in the early stages of language acquisition, sometimes only with schooling, may escape this ban. Even principles of grammar, such as Blocking, or Pāṇini’s principle, appear to entail the impossibility of having synonymous cell mates. However, much depends on the exact formulation of these principles; and the existence of cell mates can be reconciled with certain versions of them and has been acknowledged in much recent work in theoretical morphology.
The term parasynthesis is mainly used in modern theoretical linguistics in the meaning introduced by Arsène Darmesteter (1874) to refer to denominal or deadjectival prefixed verbs of the Romance languages (Fr. embarquer ‘to load, to board’) in which the non-prefixed verb (barquer) is not an actual word, and the co-radical nominal form (embarqu-) is not well formed.
The Romance parasynthetic verb is characterized with reference to its nominal or adjectival base as the result of the co-occurrence of both a prefix and a suffix (typically of a conversion process, i.e., non-overt derivational marking). The co-occurrence or simultaneity of the two processes has been seen by some scholars as a circumfixation phenomenon, whereby two elements act in combination.
The peculiar relationship existing between base and parasynthetic verb is particularly problematic for an Item and Process theoretical perspective since this approach entails the application of one process at a time. Conversely, a Word and Paradigm framework deals more easily with parasynthetic patterns, as parasynthetic verbs are put in relation with prefixed verbs and verbs formed by conversion, without being undermined neither by gaps in derivational patterns nor by the possible concomitant addition of prefixes and suffixes.
Due to their peculiar structure, parasynthetic verbs have been matter of investigation even for non-specialists of Romance languages, especially from synchronic (or, better said, achronic) point of view. Attention has been also placed on their diachronic development in that, despite being characteristic of the Romance languages, parasynthetic verbs were already present, although to a lesser extent, in Latin.
The diachronic development of parasynthetic verbs is strictly connected with that of spatial verb prefixes from Latin to the Romance languages, with particular reference to their loss of productivity in the encoding of spatial meanings and their grammaticalization into actionality markers. Parasynthetic verbs have been in the Romance languages since their earliest stages and have shown constant productivity and diffusion in all the Romance varieties, thus differing from spatial prefixes, which underwent a strong reduction in productivity in combination with verbs.
The term parasynthetic is sometimes also used to refer to nouns and adjectives derived from compounds or in which both a prefix and a suffix are attached to a lexical base. In the case of nominal and adjectival formation, there is much less consensus among scholars on the need to use this term, as well as on which processes should fall under this label. The common denominator of such cases consists either in the non-attestation of presumed intermediate stages (Sp. corchotaponero ‘relative to the industry of cork plugs’) or in the non-correspondence between sense and structure of the morphologically complex word (Fr. surnaturel ‘supernatural’).
Relative clauses of which the predicate contains a present, past, or passive participle can be used in a reduced form. Although it has been shown that participial relative clauses cannot always be considered to be non-complete variants of full relative clauses, they are generally called reduced relative clauses in the literature. Since they differ from full relative clauses in containing a non-finite predicate, they are also called non-finite relative clauses. Another type of non-finite relative clause is the infinitival relative clause. In English, in participial relative clauses, the antecedent noun is interpreted as the subject of the predicate of the relative clause. Because of this restriction, the status of relative clause has been put into doubt for participial adnominal modifiers, especially, because in a language such as English, they can occur in pre-nominal position, whereas a full relative clause cannot. While some linguists analyze both pre-nominal and post-nominal participles as verbal, others have argued that participles are essentially adjectival categories. In a third type of analysis, participles are divided into verbal and adjectival ones. This also holds for adnominal participles. Besides the relation to full relative clauses and the category of the participle, participial relative clauses raise a number of other interesting questions, which have been discussed in the literature. These questions concern the similarity or difference in interpretation of the pre-nominal and the post-nominal participial clause, restrictions on the type of verb used in past participial relative clauses, and similarities and differences between the syntax and semantics of participial clauses in English and other languages. Besides syntactic and semantic issues, participial relative clauses have raised other questions, such as their use in texts. Participial relative clauses have been studied from a diachronic and a stylistic point of view. It has been shown that the use of reduced forms such as participial relative clauses has increased over time and that, because of their condensed form, they are used more in academic styles than in colloquial speech. Nonetheless, they have proven to be used already by very young children, although in second language acquisition they are used late, because their condensed form is associated with an academic style of writing. Since passive or past participles often have the same form as the past tense, it has been shown that sentences containing a subject noun modified by a post-nominal past or passive participle are difficult to process, although certain factors may facilitate the processing of the sentence.
The term “part of speech” is a traditional one that has been in use since grammars of Classical Greek (e.g., Dionysius Thrax) and Latin were compiled; for all practical purposes, it is synonymous with the term “word class.” The term refers to a system of word classes, whereby class membership depends on similar syntactic distribution and morphological similarity (as well as, in a limited fashion, on similarity in meaning—a point to which we shall return). By “morphological similarity,” reference is made to functional morphemes that are part of words belonging to the same word class. Some examples for both criteria follow: The fact that in English, nouns can be preceded by a determiner such as an article (e.g., a book, the apple) illustrates syntactic distribution. Morphological similarity among members of a given word class can be illustrated by the many adverbs in English that are derived by attaching the suffix –ly, that is, a functional morpheme, to an adjective (quick, quick-ly). A morphological test for nouns in English and many other languages is whether they can bear plural morphemes. Verbs can bear morphology for tense, aspect, and mood, as well as voice morphemes such as passive, causative, or reflexive, that is, morphemes that alter the argument structure of the verbal root. Adjectives typically co-occur with either bound or free morphemes that function as comparative and superlative markers. Syntactically, they modify nouns, while adverbs modify word classes that are not nouns—for example, verbs and adjectives.
Most traditional and descriptive approaches to parts of speech draw a distinction between major and minor word classes. The four parts of speech just mentioned—nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs—constitute the major word classes, while a number of others, for example, adpositions, pronouns, conjunctions, determiners, and interjections, make up the minor word classes. Under some approaches, pronouns are included in the class of nouns, as a subclass.
While the minor classes are probably not universal, (most of) the major classes are. It is largely assumed that nouns, verbs, and probably also adjectives are universal parts of speech. Adverbs might not constitute a universal word class.
There are technical terms that are equivalents to the terms of major versus minor word class, such as content versus function words, lexical versus functional categories, and open versus closed classes, respectively. However, these correspondences might not always be one-to-one.
More recent approaches to word classes don’t recognize adverbs as belonging to the major classes; instead, adpositions are candidates for this status under some of these accounts, for example, as in Jackendoff (1977). Under some other theoretical accounts, such as Chomsky (1981) and Baker (2003), only the three word classes noun, verb, and adjective are major or lexical categories. All of the accounts just mentioned are based on binary distinctive features; however, the features used differ from each other. While Chomsky uses the two category features [N] and [V], Jackendoff uses the features [Subj] and [Obj], among others, focusing on the ability of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adpositions to take (directly, without the help of other elements) subjects (thus characterizing verbs and nouns) or objects (thus characterizing verbs and adpositions). Baker (2003), too, uses the property of taking subjects, but attributes it only to verbs. In his approach, the distinctive feature of bearing a referential index characterizes nouns, and only those. Adjectives are characterized by the absence of both of these distinctive features.
Another important issue addressed by theoretical studies on lexical categories is whether those categories are formed pre-syntactically, in a morphological component of the lexicon, or whether they are constructed in the syntax or post-syntactically. Jackendoff (1977) is an example of a lexicalist approach to lexical categories, while Marantz (1997), and Borer (2003, 2005a, 2005b, 2013) represent an account where the roots of words are category-neutral, and where their membership to a particular lexical category is determined by their local syntactic context. Baker (2003) offers an account that combines properties of both approaches: words are built in the syntax and not pre-syntactically; however, roots do have category features that are inherent to them.
There are empirical phenomena, such as phrasal affixation, phrasal compounding, and suspended affixation, that strongly suggest that a post-syntactic morphological component should be allowed, whereby “syntax feeds morphology.”