[Lingtyp] "grammatically encoded"

Christian Lehmann christian.lehmann at uni-erfurt.de
Wed Mar 8 18:46:07 UTC 2023

Dear Kasper,

things are getting interesting here. Just a few observations:

Am 08.03.2023 um 17:03 schrieb Kasper Boye:
> We claim in (Boye & Harder 2012) that this understanding of the 
> lexical-grammatical distinctions is to a high extend co-extensive with 
> traditional conceptions (otherwise, it would be an understanding of 
> something else). As pointed out by Riccardo and Christian (in the 2013 
> review of the latter), however, it is true that in some cases, 
> classifications based on our understanding are at odds with 
> pretheoretical classifications. As mentioned by Riccardo and 
> Christian, for instance, some pronouns come out as lexical. We believe 
> that this is not a serious problem for the understanding we propose, 
> because we believe our proposal offers a functional rationale for the 
> status of grammar as a design feature of human languages. The fact 
> that other features characteristic of grammatical elements are not 
> fully co-extensive could also be regarded as a problem for the 
> pretheoretical classifications. We would also like to point to the 
> fact that the idea of distinguishing between lexical and grammatical 
> pronouns is not entirely new and strange (cf. e.g. the distinction 
> between weak and strong pronouns in Romance languages).
Lehmann op.cit. actually says:

    While this may be an important observation, it requires us to deny
    grammatical status to stressable
    formatives like interrogative, demonstrative and (tonic) personal
    pronouns, modal verbs,
    negators and many others.

Thus, you would have to assume that all these stressable items have been 
regarded as grammatical erroneously by "pretheoretical classifications". 
They do, however, meet my definition, if to different extents.

It is also not seldom forgotten that grammatical affixes are not 
necessarily stressless (or clitic). Many Romance conjugation suffixes 
bear stress, and so do many Russian declension suffixes. You probably 
will not want to deny grammatical status to these. If so, you would have 
to sharpen the criterion of stressability.

> As for Christian’s own suggestion for an understanding (‘Such aspects 
> of linguistic expressions are grammatical whose conformation obeys 
> constraints of the particular linguistic system’), we wouldn’t go as 
> far as claiming to refute it, but would like to point out that it does 
> not seem to distinguish lexical from grammatical elements: also 
> lexical elements are constrained by the linguistic system – otherwise, 
> we would not have distributional classes. In our view, structural 
> constraints are what distinguishes both lexical and grammatical 
> elements from holophrases.
Given grammaticalization, being governed by structural constraints is, 
again, a matter of degree. Constraints may add up on an item or class of 
items, and they may be more or less strict. If you have a distribution 
class for which there are rules of grammar, then that is - to that 
extent - a grammatical class. Nouns of a certain gender may be such a 
class; and gender certainly is a grammatical category. If you have a 
distribution class for which there are semantic rules, then that is a 
lexical class. Human nouns or agentive verbs may be such a distribution 
class. Moreover, this kind of class is generally not proper of a 
particular linguistic system.

Best wishes,



Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
Rudolfstr. 4
99092 Erfurt

Tel.: 	+49/361/2113417
E-Post: 	christianw_lehmann at arcor.de
Web: 	https://www.christianlehmann.eu
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