Derivation and categorization in flexible and differentiated languages

J. Don, E. van Lier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Don and Van Lier focus on Evans and Osada’s criterion of semantic compositionality: What is the interpretation of formally identical lexemes in different syntactic contexts, and what implications does this have for categorial distinctions in individual languages? Data of three candidates for ‘flexible languages’—Kharia (Munda, India), Tagalog (Malayo-Polynesian, Philippines), and Samoan (Oceanic, Samoa)—are compared with Dutch, a ‘differentiated language’ with distinct lexical classes of verbs and nouns. Compositional and non-compositional semantic shifts are found in all four languages. The difference between ‘flexible’ and ‘differentiated’ languages resides in the fact that lexical and syntactic categorization are part of a single operation in languages of the latter type, whereas they are distinct operations in a flexible language. Specifically, while roots in differentiated languages combine with a categorial label before they are further processed by the morphology and syntax, flexible languages can (zero-)derive and combine roots without affecting their distributional freedom.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFlexible word classes: a typological study of underspecified parts-of-speech
EditorsJ. Rijkhoff, E. van Lier
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9780191748707
ISBN (Print)9780199668441
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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