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Verbless Predicative Clauses in the Romance Languages: Syntax, Semantics, Variation  

Melvin González-Rivera

Nonverbal or verbless utterances posit a great deal of challenge to any linguistic theory. Despite its frequency and productivity among many languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, Guaraní, Haitian Creole; Hdi, Hebrew, Hungarian, Irish, Korean, Mauritian Creole, Mina, Northern Kurdish, Romandalusí, Russian, Samoan, Turkish, Yucatec Maya, a.o., verbless clauses have received so far relatively little attention from most theoretical frameworks. The study of such clauses in general raises many interesting questions, since they appear to involve main clause structure without overt verbs. Some of the questions that arise when dealing with verbless constructions are the following: (a) are these clauses a projection of T(ense), or some other functional category, (b) do verbless clauses have an overt or null verbal head, (c) are verbless clauses small clauses, and (d) can verbless clauses be interpreted as propositions or statements that are either true or false. In mainstream generative grammar the predominant assumption has been that verbless clauses contain a functional projection that may be specified for tense (Tense Phrase) but need not occur necessarily with a verbal projection or a copula. This is strong evidence against the view that tense needs to co-occur with a verbal head—that is, tense may be universally projected but does not need to co-occur with a verbal head. This proposal departs from previous analyses where the category tense may be specified for categorial verbal or nominal features. Thus, in general, verbless clauses may be considered Tense Phrases (TPs) that dominate a nonverbal predicate. An example of verbless constructions in Romance languages are Predicative Noun Phrases (henceforth, PNPs). PNPs are nonverbal or verbless constructions that exhibit clausal properties.

Article

Affixation in Morphology  

Kristel Van Goethem

Affixation is the morphological process that consists of adding an affix (i.e., a bound morpheme) to a morphological base. It is cross-linguistically the most common process that human languages use to derive new lexemes (derivational affixation) or to adapt a word’s form to its morphosyntactic context (inflectional affixation). Suffixes (i.e., bound morphemes following the base) and prefixes (i.e., bound morphemes preceding the base) are the most common affixes, with suffixation being more frequently recorded in the world’s languages than prefixation. Minor types of affixation include circumfixation and infixation. Conversion and back-formation are related derivational processes that do not make use of affixation. Many studies have concentrated on the need to differentiate derivation from inflection, but these morphological processes are probably best described as two end points of a cline. Prototypically, derivation is used to change a word’s category (part of speech) and involves a semantic change. A word’s inflectional distinctions make up its paradigm, which amounts to the different morphological forms that correlate with different morphosyntactic functions. Form-function mapping in (derivational and inflectional) affixation is a key issue in current research on affixation. Many deviations from the canonical One Form-One Meaning principle can be observed in the field of affixation. From a diachronic point of view, it has been demonstrated that affixes often derive from free lexemes by grammaticalization, with affixoids being recognized as an intermediate step on this cline. More controversial, but still attested, is the opposite change whereby affixes and affixoids develop into free morphemes through a process of degrammaticalization.

Article

Form and Meaning of (Indefinite) Pronouns  

Olaf Koeneman and Hedde Zeijlstra

The relation between the morphological form of a pronoun and its semantic function is not always transparent, and syncretism abounds in natural languages. In a language like English, for instance, three types of indefinite pronouns can be identified, often grouped in series: the some-series, the any-series, and the no-series. However, this does not mean that there are also three semantic functions for indefinite pronouns. Haspelmath (1997), in fact distinguishes nine functions. Closer inspection shows that these nine functions must be reduced to four main functions of indefinites, each with a number of subfunctions: (i) Negative Polarity Items; (ii) Free-Choice Items; (iii) negative indefinites; and (iv) positive or existential indefinites. These functions and subfunctions can be morphologically realized differently across languages, but don’t have to. In English, functions (i) and (ii), unlike (iii) and (iv), may morphologically group together, both expressed by the any-series. Where morphological correspondences between the kinds of functions that indefinites may express call for a classification, such classifications turn out to be semantically well motivated too. Similar observations can be made for definite pronouns, where it turns out that various functions, such as the first person inclusive/exclusive distinction or dual number, are sometimes, but not always morphologically distinguished, showing that these may be subfunctions of higher, more general functions. The question as to how to demarcate the landscape of indefinite and definite pronouns thus does not depend on semantic differences alone: Morphological differences are at least as much telling. The interplay between morphological and semantic properties can provide serious answers to how to define indefinites and the various forms and functions that these may take on.

Article

Copulas in the Romance Languages  

Christopher Pountain

Definition of the copula as a discrete grammatical category is problematic. It is the semantically unmarked copulas (simple equivalents of the English verb ‘to be’) which deserve most attention in a comparison of the Romance languages; they have a typically suppletive historical morphology and are often the result of the grammaticalization of full lexical verbs, the point at which true unmarked copular status is achieved being sometimes difficult to identify. The unmarked copulas of the Ibero-Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, and Catalan) have the most complex distribution and have proved the most difficult to account for synchronically. The situation in the early 21st century is the consequence of a progressive encroachment of the reflexes of Latin stare and other verbs on the functions of Latin esse (reference is made to the Classical Latin form esse for convenience; however, the Romance paradigms must be taken to derive from a Vulgar Latin form *essĕre, into which other verbs, notably sedēre ‘to sit’ in the case of the Ibero-Romance languages, were suppletively incorporated). The contrastive study of the development of cognate copular verbs in closely related languages needs closer attention in regard to the identification of the parameters of copula choice with adjectival complements.

Article

Morphology in Japonic Languages  

Taro Kageyama

Due to the agglutinative character, Japanese and Ryukyuan morphology is predominantly concatenative, applying to garden-variety word formation processes such as compounding, prefixation, suffixation, and inflection, though nonconcatenative morphology like clipping, blending, and reduplication is also available and sometimes interacts with concatenative word formation. The formal simplicity of the principal morphological devices is counterbalanced by their complex interaction with syntax and semantics as well as by the intricate interactions of four lexical strata (native, Sino-Japanese, foreign, and mimetic) with particular morphological processes. A wealth of phenomena is adduced that pertain to central issues in theories of morphology, such as the demarcation between words and phrases; the feasibility of the lexical integrity principle; the controversy over lexicalism and syntacticism; the distinction of morpheme-based and word-based morphology; the effects of the stage-level vs. individual-level distinction on the applicability of morphological rules; the interface of morphology, syntax, and semantics, and pragmatics; and the role of conjugation and inflection in predicate agglutination. In particular, the formation of compound and complex verbs/adjectives takes place in both lexical and syntactic structures, and the compound and complex predicates thus formed are further followed in syntax by suffixal predicates representing grammatical categories like causative, passive, negation, and politeness as well as inflections of tense and mood to form a long chain of predicate complexes. In addition, an array of morphological objects—bound root, word, clitic, nonindependent word or fuzoku-go, and (for Japanese) word plus—participate productively in word formation. The close association of morphology and syntax in Japonic languages thus demonstrates that morphological processes are spread over lexical and syntactic structures, whereas words are equipped with the distinct property of morphological integrity, which distinguishes them from syntactic phrases.

Article

Polysemy Versus Homonymy  

Salvador Valera

Polysemy and homonymy are traditionally described in the context of paradigmatic lexical relations. Unlike monosemy, in which one meaning is associated with one form, and unlike synonymy, in which one meaning is associated with several forms, in polysemy and homonymy several meanings are associated with one form. The classical view of polysemy and homonymy is as a binary opposition whereby the various meanings of one form are described either as within one word (polysemy) or as within as many words as meanings (homonymy). In this approach, the decision is made according to whether the meanings can be related to one or two different sources. This classical view does not prevail in the literature as it did in the past. The most extreme revisions have questioned the descriptive synchronic difference between polysemy and homonymy or have subsumed the separation as under a general use of one term (homophony) and then established distinctions within, according to meaning and distribution. A more widespread reinterpretation of the classical opposition is in terms of a gradient where polysemy and homonymy arrange themselves along a continuum. Such a gradient arranges formally identical units at different points according to their degree of semantic proximity and degree of entrenchment (the latter understood as the degree to which a form recalls a semantic content and is activated in a speaker’s mind). The granularity of this type of gradient varies according to specific proposals, but, in the essential, the representation ranges from most and clearest proximity as well as highest degree of entrenchment in polysemy to least and most obscure proximity and lowest degree of entrenchment in homonymy.

Article

Morphology and Lexical Semantics  

Réka Benczes

The investigation of morphology and lexical semantics is an investigation into the very essence of the semantics of word formation: the meaning of morphemes and how they can be combined to form meanings of complex words. Discussion of this question within the scholarly literature has been dependent on (i) the adopted morphological model (morpheme-based or word-based); and (ii) the adopted theoretical paradigm (such as formal/generativist accounts vs. construction-based approaches)—which also determined what problem areas received attention in the first place. One particular problem area that has surfaced most consistently within the literature (irrespective of the adopted morphological model or theoretical paradigm) is the so-called semantic mismatch question, which also serves as the focus of the present chapter. In essence, semantic mismatch pertains to the question of why there is no one-to-one correspondence between form and meaning in word formation. In other words, it is very frequently not possible out of context to give a precise account of what the meaning of a newly coined word might be based simply on the constituents that the word originates from. The article considers the extent to which the meaning of complex words is (at least partly) based on nondecompositional knowledge, implying that the meaning-bearing feature of morphemes might in fact be a graded affair. Thus, depending on the entrenchment and strength of the interrelations among sets of words, the meaning of the components contributes only more or less to a meaning of a word, suggesting that “mismatches” might be neither unusual nor uncommon.

Article

Semantic Theories of Questions  

Floris Roelofsen

This survey article discusses two basic issues that semantic theories of questions face. The first is how to conceptualize and formally represent the semantic content of questions. This issue arises in particular because the standard truth-conditional notion of meaning, which has been fruitful in the analysis of declarative statements, is not applicable to questions. This is because questions are not naturally construed as being true or false. Instead, it has been proposed that the semantic content of a question must be characterized in terms of its answerhood or resolution conditions. This article surveys a number of theories which develop this basic idea in different ways, focusing on so-called proposition-set theories (alternative semantics, partition semantics, and inquisitive semantics). The second issue that will be considered here concerns questions that are embedded within larger sentences. Within this domain, one important puzzle is why certain predicates can take both declarative and interrogative complements (e.g., Bill knows that Mary called / Bill knows who called), while others take only declarative complements (e.g., Bill thinks that Mary called / *Bill thinks who called) or only interrogative complements (e.g., Bill wonders who called / *Bill wonders that Mary called). We compare two general approaches that have been pursued in the literature. One assumes that declarative and interrogative complements differ in semantic type. On this approach, the fact that predicates like think do not take interrogative complements can be accounted for by assuming that such complements do not have the semantic type that think selects for. The other approach treats the two kinds of complement as having the same semantic type, and seeks to connect the selectional restrictions of predicates like think to other semantic properties (e.g., the fact that think is neg-raising).

Article

Relevance Theory  

Deirdre Wilson

Relevance theory is a cognitive approach to pragmatics which starts from two broadly Gricean assumptions: (a) that much human communication, both verbal and non-verbal, involves the overt expression and inferential recognition of intentions, and (b) that in inferring these intentions, the addressee presumes that the communicator’s behavior will meet certain standards, which for Grice are based on a Cooperative Principle and maxims, and for relevance theory are derived from the assumption that, as a result of constant selection pressures in the course of human evolution, both cognition and communication are relevance-oriented. Relevance is defined in terms of cognitive (or contextual) effects and processing effort: other things being equal, the greater the cognitive effects and the smaller the processing effort, the greater the relevance. A long-standing aim of relevance theory has been to show that building an adequate theory of communication involves going beyond Grice’s notion of speaker’s meaning. Another is to provide a conceptually unified account of how a much broader variety of communicative acts than Grice was concerned with—including cases of both showing that and telling that—are understood. The resulting pragmatic theory differs from Grice’s in several respects. It sees explicit communication as much richer and more inferential than Grice thought, with encoded sentence meanings providing no more than clues to the speaker’s intentions. It rejects the close link that Grice saw between implicit communication and (real or apparent) maxim violation, showing in particular how figurative utterances might arise naturally and spontaneously in the course of communication. It offers an account of vagueness or indeterminacy in communication, which is often abstracted away from in more formally oriented frameworks. It investigates the role of context in comprehension, and shows how tentative hypotheses about the intended combination of explicit content, contextual assumptions, and implicatures might be refined and mutually adjusted in the course of the comprehension process in order to satisfy expectations of relevance. Relevance theory treats the borderline between semantics and pragmatics as co-extensive with the borderline between (linguistic) decoding and (pragmatic) inference. It sees encoded sentence meanings as typically fragmentary and incomplete, and as having to undergo inferential enrichment or elaboration in order to yield fully propositional forms. It reanalyzes Grice’s conventional implicatures—which he saw as semantic but non-truth-conditional aspects of the meaning of words like but and so—as encoding procedural information with dedicated pragmatic or more broadly cognitive functions, and extends the notion of procedural meaning to a range of further items such as pronouns, discourse particles, mood indicators, and affective intonation.

Article

The Acquisition of Word-Formation in the Romance Languages  

Eve V. Clark

Several factors influence children’s initial choices of word-formation options––simplicity of form, transparency of meaning, and productivity in current adult speech. The coining of new words is also constrained by general pragmatic considerations for usage: Reliance on conventionality, contrast, and cooperation between speaker and addressee. For children acquiring French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, the data on what they know about word-formation for the coining of new words consist primarily of diary observations; in some cases, these are supplemented with experimental elicitation studies of the comprehension and production of new word-forms. The general patterns in Romance acquisition of word-formation favor derivation over compounding. Children produce some spontaneous coinages with zero derivation (verbs converted to nouns in French, for example) from as young as 2 years, 6 months (2;6). The earliest suffixes children put to use in these languages tend to be agentive (from 2;6 to 3 years onward), followed by instrumental, objective, locative, and, slightly later, diminutive. The only prefixes that emerge early in child innovations are negative ones used to express reversals of actions. Overall, the general patterns of acquisition for word-formation in Romance are similar to those in Semitic, where derivation is also more productive than compounding, rather than to those in Germanic, where compounding is highly productive, and emerges very early, before any derivational forms.