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Gradience in morphosyntactic features

Corbett, Greville G. Gradience in morphosyntactic features

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As Einstein nicely put it: ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’ It would be good to have a simple typology of the morphosyntactic features. And if Zwicky (1986: 988-989) is right in suggesting that there is a fixed list of available features and values, then a simple typology is an attainable goal. However, when we examine how features and their values can be established for given languages, gradience appears to be a major challenge. One common response to this challenge is to propose additional feature values; as we shall see, this response would rule out a simple typology. I argue that this approach fails: additional values cannot account for gradience. This means that we can still work towards the ideal of a simple typology. Thus for this paper, gradience looms large as a possible obstacle to a different goal. Gradience is an obstacle, which might suggest that we were heading for the ‘simpler’ situation, the one that fails to recognize the true complexity of the problem. I will show that this apparent obstacle is not directly relevant, allowing us still to work towards a typology which is indeed ‘as simple as possible’.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences > English and Languages > English > Surrey Morphology Group
Depositing User: Mr Adam Field
Date Deposited: 27 May 2010 14:37
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2014 17:15

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