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Readingforhandout-02b - 19 2 Words 2.1 Overview In this...

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19 2. Words 2.1 Overview In this chapter, we look at the grammatical properties of words. We begin by looking at the categorial properties of words and at how we determine what grammatical category a given word belongs to (in a given use): in the course of our discussion we introduce some new categories which will not be familiar from traditional grammar. We go on to show that categorial information alone is not sufficient to describe the grammatical properties of words, ultimately concluding that the grammatical properties of words must be characterised in terms of sets of grammatical features . 2.2 Grammatical categories Words are traditionally assigned to grammatical categories on the basis of their shared morphological and syntactic properties. The morphological criteria for categorising words concern their inflectional and derivational properties. Inflectional properties relate to different forms of the same word (e.g. the plural form of a noun like cat is formed by adding the plural inflection -s to give the form cats ); derivational properties relate to the processes by which a word can be used to form a different kind of word by the addition of an affix of some kind (e.g. by adding the suffix -ness to the adjective sad we can form the noun sadness ). Although English has a highly impoverished system of inflectional morphology, there are nonetheless two major categories of word which have distinctive inflectional properties – namely nouns and verbs . We can identify the class of nouns in terms of the fact that they generally inflect for number , and thus have distinct singular and plural forms – cf. pairs such as dog / dogs , man / men , ox / oxen , etc. Accordingly, we can differentiate a noun like fool from an adjective like foolish by virtue of the fact that only (regular) nouns like fool – not adjectives like foolish – can carry the noun plural inflection -s : cf. (1) They are fools [noun]/* foolishes [adjective] There are several complications which should be pointed out, however. One is the existence of irregular nouns like sheep which are invariable and hence have a common singular/plural form (cf. one sheep , two sheep ). A second is that some nouns are intrinsically singular (and so have no plural form) by virtue of their meaning: only those nouns (called count nouns ) which denote entities which can be counted have a plural form (e.g. chair – cf. one chair , two chairs ); some nouns denote an uncountable mass and for this reason are called mass nouns or non-count nouns , and so cannot be pluralised (e.g. furniture – hence the ungrammaticality of * one furniture , * two furnitures ). A third is that some nouns (e.g. scissors and trousers ) have a plural form but no countable singular form. A fourth complication is posed by noun expressions which contain more than one noun; only the head noun in such expressions can be pluralised, not any preceding noun used as a modifier of the head noun: thus, in expressions such as car doors , policy decisions , skate boards , horse boxes , trouser presses , coat hangers , etc. the second noun is the head noun
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