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Koenig, Jean-Pierre & Michelson, Karin: What does being a noun or a verb mean?

The indigenous languages of North America have played a critical role in discussions of the universality of part-of-speech distinctions. In this paper, we show that Oneida does not include a grammatical distinction between nouns and verbs. Rather, Oneida inflecting lexical items are subject to two cross-cutting semantic classifications, one that concerns the sort of entities they describe, the other the sort of semantic relation they include in their content. Labels such as ‘noun' and ‘verb' can still be used for cross-linguistic comparison, as the semantic partition of lexical items corresponds to canonical nouns and verbs according to morphologists and some typologists. But the meta-grammatical status of these labels is quite distinct from the status of corresponding labels in Indo-European languages like English.

Maintained by Stefan Müller

Created: October 3, 2020
Last modified: April 15, 2021

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