Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

E-mail this page 1

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Dissertation Information

Title: The Universality and Demarcation of Lexical Categories Cross-Linguistically Add Dissertation
Author: Lindsay Morcom Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Oxford, Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Syntax; Typology;
Subject Language(s): Michif
Language Family(ies): Salishan
Director(s): Mary Dalrymple
Aditi Lahiri
Paloma Bellido

Abstract: Drawing data from a variety of sources, this thesis compares functional
evidence regarding lexical categories from a number of Salish and
Wakashan languages, as well as from the Michif language. It then
applies Prototype Theory to examine the structure of the lexicons of
these languages. They are described in terms of prototype categories
that overlap to varying extents, with each category and each area of
overlap defined by a central set of prototypical features.

A high degree of gradience appears to exist between categories in
Salish and Wakashan languages, with no clear boundary between
categories or areas of overlap, indicating that lexical categories in
these languages, rather than being clearly demarcated, are instead
fuzzy categories with very little distinguishing them. Categories in
Michif, on the other hand, exhibit far less overlap. This variation is
compared to variation in conceptual categories across languages, and
challenges the notions of the universality of clearly demarcated lexical
categories and the existence of separately stored language module in
the human mind.

In spite of the variation in lexical category demarcation observed
across the languages studied, it is possible to demarcate the
categories of Noun and Verb to at least some extent in all languages,
as well as a category of Adjective in some languages. This supports
the proposed universality of the categories of Noun and Verb, as well
as the implicational universals proposed in the Amsterdam Model of
Parts of Speech (Hengeveld 1992a, b). It is also possible to identify a
number of defining characteristics for each lexical category that appear
to hold across languages. Since similar characteristics can be
identified across languages for all categories, but the categories
themselves display varying degrees of overlap in individual languages,
this research supports the proposal that language universals, rather
than consisting of structures, rules, and categories that are identical in
all languages, are rather collections of prototypical characteristics for
grammatical categories that are similar across languages (Croft 2000).