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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."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Mixed Categories in the Hierarchical Lexicon Add Dissertation
Author: Robert Malouf Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Stanford University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1998
Linguistic Subfield(s): Syntax;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard
Dagara, Northern
Quechua, Cusco
Director(s): Peter Sells
Tom Wasow
Elizabeth Traugott
Ivan Sag

Abstract: Mixed category constructions involve lexical items that seem to be central members of more that one part of speech and so pose a problem for the standard view of syntactic categories as primitive, universal, and perhaps innate. For example, the verbal gerund phrase in the sentence 'Chris worried about Pat's frequently eating hamburgers' has some internal properties of a verb phrase but the external distribution of a noun phrase, and the verbal gerund 'eating' cannot be classified as either a verb or a noun. In this dissertation, I develop an analysis based on a fine-grained theory of syntactic categories of this and similar mixed category constructions in languages including Quechua, Tibetan, Quiche, Standard Arabic, Fijian, Dagaare, and Jacaltec. A category like 'noun' is actually a bundle of recurring grammatical information represented as constraints on types in the hierarchical lexicon. Mixed categories have an atypical combination of information: verbal gerunds share the selectional properties of verbs and the distributional properties of nouns. Since under this view different dimensions of grammatical information can, in principle, vary independently, the behavior of mixed categories creates no paradox. But, while these dimensions are in principle independent, in fact when we look across languages we find that certain types of mixed categories are quite common, while others are rare or nonexistent. I show that the cross-linguistic variation can best be accounted for by means of a lexical categorial prototype. Specifically, nouns prototypically denote objects and verbs prototypically denote actions. By stating these prototypes as default constraints in a hierarchy of lexical information, both the regular and the irregular cases can be accounted for. In this way, we can bring insights from cognitive and functional approaches to linguistics into a formal analysis, thus building on the strengths of both approaches. Finally, I show how West Greenlandic noun incorporation can also be accounted for as a mixed category. Noun incorporating verbal bases form words with the distribution of verbs but some of the selectional properties of nouns. Thus they are analogous to English verbal gerunds, and can be accounted for in a similar way.