Are phrases universal?

dlevere at ILSTU.EDU dlevere at ILSTU.EDU
Fri Aug 28 13:31:58 UTC 2009

It is possible to write a grammar with only Linear Precedence Rules +  
linking rules for semantic interpretation that doesn't depend on  
phrase structure rules. So although it is very common for linguists to  
think in terms of phrase structure, I think that it might be  
worthwhile (and not too difficult) to provide argumentation to the  
effect that this or that language is better analyzed with hierarchical  
phrase structure rules than LP rules.


Quoting Johanna Nichols <johanna at BERKELEY.EDU>:

> The entries on that WALS map were based on the marking in clauses and
> possessive phrases, so for all six of those languages there seems to have
> been something that could be identified as a possessive phrase (an NP with
> an adnominal possessor).  I think all six languages have fixed word order
> in those phrases, suggesting that there are indeed phrases there.
> Johanna Nichols
> Alexander V Bochkov wrote:
>> Dear colleagues,
>> I am working on a paper and I need your help (if you have references,
>> that's even better!)
>> 1. How universal is the phrase? In other words, are there languages that
>> lack phrases completely? By phrase I roughly understand "a set of
>> syntactic elements which form a constituent (=relatively independent group
>> of words)." (Bussmann, Hadumod, Gregory Trauth, Kerstin Kazzazi, and
>> Hadumod Bussmann. 1996. Routledge dictionary of language and linguistics.
>> Routledge reference. London: Routledge. - p. 902)
>>  2. WALS says that there are 6 languages with zero head/dependent marking
>> . It is not entirely clear whether those
>> languages have phrases or not. If they do, how do we know that?
>> Thank you.
>> Alexander Bochkov
>> --------------------------
>> Department of Second Language Studies
>> University of Hawaii at Manoa

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