[Lingtyp] wordhood

Eitan Grossman eitan.grossman at mail.huji.ac.il
Wed Nov 15 12:42:30 UTC 2017

> David wrote:

> I would just add that would-be substantive notions such as, say, "sonorant
> consonant" or "kinship term" are themselves every bit as abstract as purely
> formal notions such as domains, or syntactic categories.  (After all these
> years working on Indonesian, I still can't make up my mind whether it even
> HAS kinship terms ...)
> I agree, and it strikes me that the term 'abstract' is too loose to be
useful without being careful about its scope. "Sonorant consonant" involves
several, perhaps many layers, of abstraction. First of all, over individual
tokens of events in speech (and even the notion 'segment' has been argued
about in phonetics and phonology), resulting in something like a phone [n]
or a phoneme /n/ (the latter often involving another stage of abstraction)
within a particular language; so even descriptive categories are

Comparing such such types across language involves even more abstraction -
and maybe we need a third type of brackets for that kind of comparative
concept. Bundling together things like [m], [n], [l] and so on into
'sonorant' is yet another abstraction. And this goes all the way up.

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