Approaches to Variation and Gradience in Lexical Categorization

Instructor(s): Elaine J. Francis

Lexical categories such as "noun" and "adjective" are assumed to be among the building blocks of syntax, and yet characterizing them in an empirically adequate way has proven to be a huge challenge for syntactic theories. This course examines theoretical approaches to three empirical issues: (1) that different members of the same category within a language often have quite different grammatical properties; (2) that some categories appear to result from the mixing of other categories; (3) that categories and category systems vary cross-linguistically. We start by examining limitations of the traditional generative approach and proceed to a detailed examination of research representing three major approaches to variation in lexical categorization: revised generative theories (Baker and others), functional-typological theories (Croft and others), and multidimensional theories (Spencer and others). The course is intended for graduate students who have completed at least one syntax course, and will be taught as a discussion-oriented seminar.

One graduate (or advanced undergraduate) syntax course. Any theoretical approach is fine.