Word classes: Semantics, morphosyntax and pragmatics
John Mansfield
May 2024

Most contemporary linguists treat word classes as distributional phenomena, formally defined by morphosyntactic contexts in which sets of words or lexemes occur. But even the originators of this distributional method were aware that it is much more complicated than it sounds, and if applied rigorously does not seem to result in neat word classes of the type normally assumed. In this chapter I will summarise some of the limitations of the morphosyntactic approach to word classes, and argue that the solutions lie in semantics and pragmatics. On the one hand, many word classes do in fact have a consistent semantic character, even if this is not true of all word classes in all languages. On the other hand, pragmatic function provides a valuable, and under-appreciated, lens for understanding why some word classes are so semantically inconsistent.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/008153
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Valera and Bauer, eds., Conversion.
keywords: word class, syntactic typology, lexical semantics, pragmatics, semantics, morphology, syntax
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