DescriptionPublished as Coyote Papers: Working Papers in Linguistics from A-Z, Studies on Arabic, Basque, English, Japanese, Navajo and Papago
AbstractRelating categories across languages is the crucial question in the study of language universals.) It will be argued here that the syntactic categories (primary sentential constituents) of a language are not projections of lexical categories, and that identifying categories across languages as equivalent, as Steele (1981) has for instantiations of the category AUX, does not rest upon a language internal correspondence between these syntactic categories and particular lexical categories. A set of language independent definitions of the syntactic categories SUBJECT, AUX, PREDICATE and ADVERBIAL in terms of the functional properties (role in function/argument structure) of sentential constituents is proposed, and the instantiation of these categories in the unrelated languages Egyptian Arabic and English is shown. This set of category definitions suffices for an economical account of sentence structure in these configurational languages, and the definitions are shown to be useful in cross-language comparisons. The claim is made here that PREDICATE is a universal syntactic category: that is, all (complete) sentences of all languages necessarily have some constituent that we may label PREDICATE. This is not true of the other syntactic categories to be identified here, nor is it true of any lexical category, including verb.