Parts of Speech: Descriptive tools, theoretical constructs
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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Late Archaic Chinese is a precategorial language, i.e., a language whose lexical items are not preclassified in the lexicon for the syntactic functions of N and V. This will be shown on the basis of structural-conceptual criteria as those developed by Croft (2000) and Sasse (1993b) as well as on the basis of methodological criteria as those suggested by Evans & Osada (2005). As is claimed in Construction Grammar (Goldberg 1995, 2005), the meaning of lexical items is derived by integrating their own lexical meaning with the meaning contributed by the construction. The construction analysed in this paper is the argument structure construction. Linking between lexicon and syntax is subject to stereotypical pragmatic implicatures (Levinson 2000) that follow a version of the animacy hierarchy. As it will turn out, Late Archaic Chinese does not strictly lack parts of speech. In fact, without the distinction of nouns and verbs at the level of syntax it would not be possible to analyse utterances in Late Archaic Chinese. The only thing that Late Archaic Chinese can do without is noun/verb distinction in the lexicon. This typologically remarkable property is due to a process of morphological change. If such a historical process can take place irrespective of parts-of-speech distinctions, precategoriality in the lexicon cannot be a robust universal feature even if most theoretical approaches take it for granted.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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