Radical Construction Grammar (Croft 2001) proposes that parts of speech can be explained as prototypes that emerge from the use of broad semantic classes of words--objects, properties, and actions--in basic propositional act functions of discourse--reference, modification, and predication. This theory predicts that each of these broad semantic classes will be typologically unmarked in its prototypical propositional act function and relatively marked in other propositional act functions. Because this theory speaks to such a broad and fundamental organization of linguistic structure, the rich structure of these prototypes has not been fully explored in a comprehensive manner. Gradience is a key characteristic of prototypes (Rosch 1978), and it is found for parts of speech in the continuum from object concepts to property concepts to action concepts. This gradience--and the semantic primitives that motivate the continuum--are explored in more detail within each of these broad semantic classes through a discussion of the literature on noun classes, adjective classes, and verb classes. Equipped with a list of conceptual targets that are predicted to represent the range of prototypicality for each part of speech, this thesis sets out to illustrate their prototype structures. For eleven genetically, geographically, and typologically diverse languages, lexemes are identified to represent these conceptual targets. The criteria of typological markedness is used to identify asymmetries in how these lexemes are formally encoded relative to each other across the three propositional act functions. These markedness asymmetries are then coded for and illustrated in a multidimensional scaling analysis. The insight of the spatial model is twofold: First, it illustrates the true prototype structures of parts of speech in which many concepts cluster at the prototypes and a few end up on the peripheries. Even more, it reveals the relative strengths of the prototypes, confirming the hypothesis of a weaker adjective prototype. Second, the spatial model sheds light on the semantic primitives that motivate the prototype structures, both internally and in relation to each other.
parts of speech, typology, multidimensional scaling, prototype theory, typological markedness, nouns, verbs, adjectives, functional linguistics
Level of Degree
Department of Linguistics
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
Rogers, Phillip. "Illustrating the prototype structures of parts of speech: A multidimensional scaling analysis." (2016). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ling_etds/28