Dr. Eva van Lier, ACLC, Assistant Professor Department of Literature and Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam

Flexible Word Classes in Oceanic Languages

01Dec2017 15:15 - 16:30


Eva van Lier is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar. Title and abstract are now available.


In typological as well as descriptive studies, some members of the Oceanic Language family have been claimed to have extremely polyfunctional word classes, in fact, to make no distinction whatsoever between major classes of nouns, verbs, and adjectives (e.g. Hengeveld 1992, Mosel & Hovdhaugen 1992, Jones 1998). These claims have been disputed on theoretical grounds by those who regard word classes as universal categories (e.g. Chung 2012), but also by essentially framework-free descriptive linguists, who have argued instead that many Oceanic languages show robust, although sometimes subtle, evidence for distinct word classes (e.g. Mosel 2017, Völkel 2017). This situation, more specifically a fundamental theoretical debate against and a relatively meagre empirical backdrop, formed the starting point of my NWO Veni project on word classes in Oceanic Languages. In this talk, I will present some of the results of this project. I will focus, among other things, on the expression of predication, on the ‘intermediate’ category of property words (prototypical adjectives), and on the role of lexical semantics. I will show that the degree of functional flexibility of a word class is language- and construction-specific, but can nevertheless be meaningfully compared between languages, thus revealing generalizations without positing universal categories.


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