Article published in:Parts of Speech: Descriptive tools, theoretical constructs
Edited by Umberto Ansaldo, Jan Don and Roland Pfau
[Studies in Language 32:3] 2008
► pp. 683–700
Lexical semantic constraints on noun roots and noun borrowability
While nouns are thought to be more easily borrowed than verbs, this investigation demonstrates that there may be limitations on noun borrowing into certain languages. The case of Zuni is examined, in which conditions of contact similar to that of neighboring languages nevertheless result in a different treatment of the noun lexicon. The possibility of borrowing natural kind nouns into Zuni exists alongside a tendency against borrowing nouns of the artifact type. It is argued that the source of this tendency against artifact noun borrowing in Zuni is the grammatical complexity of the lexical semantic representation for these nouns: grammatical complexity in Zuni noun roots appears to be dispreferred. These findings belie the claim of Thomason and Kaufman (1988) that “any linguistic feature can be transferred to any other language” given an appropriate degree of contact.
Published online: 09 September 2008