Functions of nominal classification

Abstract

NOTICE: this is the authors' version of a work that was accepted for publication in Language Sciences. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Abstract Nominal classification systems are generally categorized on the basis of morphosyntactic criteria. However, the functional motivations for these phenomena do not coincide directly with their morphosyntactic properties: some functions are shared by diverse systems, and each morphosyntactic type may serve diverse communicative functions. We provide a functional typology for nominal classification, including both noun class and classifier systems. We focus on two types of functions: semantic, i.e., the use of classification markers to expand the referential power of the lexicon, and discourse/pragmatic, i.e., the use of classification markers to establish and manipulate the status of discourse referents. We identify functions that are shared by formally diverse systems as well as functions that depend on means of expression. We also review psycholinguistic evidence for the role of nominal classification in language comprehension and production. 1. Introduction 1 Nominal classification systems are generally categorized on the basis of morphosyntactic criteria, and studies of these systems have identified a range of communicative functions such as tracking of discourse referents or presentation of them from different perspectives (see below for discussion and references). However, the functional motivations for these grammatical phenomena do not coincide directly with their morphosyntactic properties: some functions are shared by formally diverse systems, and each morphosyntactic type may serve diverse communicative functions. Also, studies of nominal classification sometimes differ in their definitions of terms, in their goals, and in the phenomena that they focus on. In this paper we aim to provide a systematic framework for describing functional motivations for nominal classification, including both noun class and classifier systems. We identify the most important functions, relate function to means of expression, and compare functions across morphosyntactic forms. Due to space constraints we will focus on the question of functions of nominal classification itself rather than on the issue of the extent to which the principles for assigning nouns to classes are semantically motivated. We also take a synchronic perspective on nominal classification systems rather than tracing their historical origins (see, e.g., Aikhenvald, 2000, chapters 11–13 …

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@inproceedings{ContiniMorava2015FunctionsON, title={Functions of nominal classification}, author={Ellen Contini-Morava and Marcin Kilarski and Adam Mickiewicz}, year={2015} }