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date: 24 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Linguists commonly reduce the grammatical behaviour of words to sets of properties associated with lexical categories such as noun and verb (‘parts of speech’). This chapter reviews a number of different approaches to the categorization of words and the problems associated with them. It is shown that problems arise when a word lacks properties associated with the category to which it has been assigned (‘subsective gradience’) and also when a word possesses properties associated with a category to which it is not assigned (‘intersective gradience’). It is also argued that the process of determining the set of categories within a language involves arbitrary and inconsistent choices that cannot be resolved on empirical grounds. Finally, it is argued that crosslinguistic variation in lexical categories and the properties associated with them undermine attempts to produce a crosslinguistically valid set of lexical categories.

Keywords: lexical categories, parts of speech, grammatical behaviour, subsective gradience, intersective gradience, crosslinguistic variation

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