[Lingtyp] wordhood: responses to Haspelmath

Maia Ponsonnet maia.ponsonnet at sydney.edu.au
Sun Nov 12 15:28:37 UTC 2017

See attached for a bit of fun on linguists' tendency to give in to essentialism/platonism etc.



Dr Maïa Ponsonnet
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics
ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Fellow

Social Sciences Building, Room 2.47
Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education
The University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Hwy, Perth, WA (6009), Australia
P.  +61 (0) 8 6488 2870 - M.  +61 (0) 468 571 030

From: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf of Balthasar Bickel <balthasar.bickel at uzh.ch>
Sent: Sunday, 12 November 2017 5:21 PM
To: Eitan Grossman
Subject: Re: [Lingtyp] wordhood: responses to Haspelmath

> On 12 Nov 2017, at 09:02, Eitan Grossman <eitan.grossman at mail.huji.ac.il> wrote:
> Having said that, I agree with David (if I understand him correctly) that the crucial missing link is the operationalization of the notion of 'bond strength' or 'boundness,' but as far as I know, this has yet to be articulated for cross-linguistic purposes. Incidentally, this might be a way out of the reliance of notions like 'affix' and 'clitic' on the notion 'word,' because the former could be defined purely in terms of 'boundness’.

The Bickel & Zúñiga paper in the Polysynthesis handbook is another attempt to this (we speak about 'cohesion’). There are many thorny issues that need to be resolved,  but we sketch analytical tools that allow us to describe each domain (groupings of functionally distinct elements) in each language with some precision, and at the same time to compare these domains within and across languages (e.g. compare degrees of overlap, relative sizes etc.), and to explicate hypotheses on how these domains, or domain clusters, matter for acquisition and processing.

But this all means that we should stop worrying about Platonic ‘words’ out there. (As Mattis pointed out, not much insight had been generated if biologists had spent all their research energy on worrying about what the real leaf is ...)


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