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Cognitive GrammarA Basic Introduction$
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Ronald Langacker

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331967

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331967.001.0001

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Nominal Structure

Nominal Structure

(p.310) 10 Nominal Structure
Cognitive Grammar

Ronald W. Langacker

Oxford University Press

Personal pronouns and proper names are inherently grounded. The structure of other nominals tends to reflect semantic function, with the head noun as core, grounding as the outermost layer, and modifiers in between. Noun modification is varied both semantically and in its structural implementation. When nominal and relational expressions combine grammatically, there is often a discrepancy between the nominal expression's profile and the entity which participates most directly in the relationship—its active zone with respect to that relationship. Noun classes have varying degrees of semantic motivation. Distributional classes, defined by participation in particular patterns, may be semantically arbitrary. While gender-type classes have semantic prototypes, the class as a whole is defined by a consistent set of grammatical behaviors. In a usage based approach, such classes are characterized by families of constructional schemas. Noun classifiers likewise have prototypical values semantically extended to a range of other cases. They represent a distinct kind of nominal structure in which the classifier functions as a schematic head noun. Classifiers are related to quantifier constructions allowing the unitization of a mass. Nouns bear various kinds of grammatical markings. Most intrinsic to nouns are elements deriving them from other classes. There is no sharp distinction between such derivation and noun inflection. Markings of gender and number are intermediate. More extrinsic are markings indicating a nominal's role in higher-level grammatical constructions. These are meaningful in a symbolic account of grammar. Such an account accommodates both agreement—the multiple realization of semantic specifications—and cases where multiple specifications are realized by a single, unanalyzable form. Analyzability is a matter of degree.

Keywords:   active zone, agreement, analyzability, derivation, distributional class, gender class, grammatical marking, grounding, head noun, inflection, noun class, noun classifier, noun modifier, number, personal pronoun, proper name, prototype, quantifier, semantic extension, unitization

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