Adjectives in Thai: Implications for a functionalist typology of word classes

Post, Mark William (2008). Adjectives in Thai: Implications for a functionalist typology of word classes. Linguistic typology, 12(3), pp. 339-381. De Gruyter Mouton 10.1515/LITY.2008.041

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Tai languages are often described as “lacking” a major lexical class “adjectives”; accordingly, they and other area languages are frequently cited as evidence against adjectival universality. This article brings the putative lack under examination, arguing that a more complete distributional analysis reveals a pattern: overlap is highest among semantically peripheral adjectives and verbs and in constructions prototypically associated to both classes crosslinguistically, and lowest among semantically core adjectives and verbs and in constructions prototypically associated to only one or the other class. Rather than “lacking” adjectives, data from Thai thus in fact support functional-typological characterizations of adjectival universality such as those of Givón (1984), Croft (2001), and Dixon (2004). Finally, while data from Thai would fail to falsify an adaptation of Enfield's (2004) Lao lexical class-taxonomy (in which adjectives are treated as a verbal subclass) on its own terms, this article argues that in absence of both universally-applicable criteria for the evaluation of categorial taxonomies crosslinguistically and evidence for the cognitive reality of categorial taxonomies so stipulated, even this more limited sense of a “lack” of adjectives in Thai is less radical a challenge to adjectival universality than has sometimes been supposed.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Linguistics

UniBE Contributor:

Post, Mark William

Subjects:

400 Language > 410 Linguistics

ISSN:

1430-0532

Publisher:

De Gruyter Mouton

Language:

English

Submitter:

Maxwell Perkins Phillips

Date Deposited:

19 May 2015 15:45

Last Modified:

24 May 2015 05:39

Publisher DOI:

10.1515/LITY.2008.041

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.68472

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/68472

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