Roots, concepts, and word structure

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This chapter examines the relation between the structure of words as linguistic objects and their conceptual content. It addresses two questions: what are the primitives of lexical semantic interpretation, and how they are expressed in the grammatical and morphological representation of a lexical item. The answer involves a characterization of roots as theoretical objects, followed by an argument to the effect that it is not roots, but larger structures of variable size which relate to lexical concepts. An in-depth discussion of nouns leads to the claim that the conceptual content of a lexical item does not reflect its grammatical structure, because a concept is not the meaning of a linguistically defined unit, but a language-external cognitive content, globally associated with the lexical word as a whole.


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