The standard doctrine that basic grammatical classes (parts of speech) are not semantically definable rests on erroneous assumptions about the nature of linguistic meaning. With a proper view of meaning, basic categories—notably noun and verb—have plausible conceptual characterizations at both the prototype level (for typical examples) and the schema level (valid for all instances). The prototypes are based on conceptual archetypes: objects for nouns, and actions for verbs. The schemas are independent of any particular conceptual content, residing instead in basic cognitive abilities immanent in the archetypes: for nouns, grouping and reification; in the case of verbs, the ability to apprend relationships and to track their evolution through time. An expression's grammatical category specifically depends on the nature of its profile (not its overall content). Thus a noun profiles a thing (defined abstractly as any product of grouping and reification), while a verb profiles a process (a relationship tracked through time). Expressions that profile non-processual relationships include adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, infinitives, and participles. Relational expressions can be categorized in different ways, depending on factors like the number and type of focused participants, whether the profiled relation is simplex or complex, and whether it is apprehended holistically or sequentially. These characterizations prove efficacious in describing how relational expressions function as noun modifiers and in clausal organization.
Keywords: adjective, adverb, clause structure, conceptual archetype, grammatical category, grammatical class, grouping, infinitive, noun, noun modifier, participle, parts of speech, preposition, process, profile, prototype, reification, relational participant, relationship, schema, thing, verb
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