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Cognitive GrammarA Basic Introduction$
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Ronald Langacker

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331967

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331967.001.0001

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Major Subclasses

Major Subclasses

Chapter:
(p.128) 5 Major Subclasses
Source:
Cognitive Grammar
Author(s):

Ronald W. Langacker

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331967.003.0005

Despite being polar opposites conceptually, the two most fundamental grammatical classes—noun and verb—show extensive parallelism. One similarity is that both divide into two major subclasses: count vs. mass for nouns, perfective vs. imperfective for verbs. Allowing for the intrinsic conceptual difference between nouns and verbs, these oppositions are precisely the same. The essential feature of count nouns and perfective verbs is that the profiled thing or process is construed as being bounded within the immediate scope in a particular cognitive domain: the domain of instantiation, characterized as the domain where instances of a type are primarily conceived as residing and are distinguished from one another by their locations. For nouns, the domain of instantiation varies, although space is prototypical; for verbs, the relevant domain is always time. Correlated with bounding are other distinguishing properties: internal heterogeneity (for count and perfective) vs. homogeneity (for mass and imperfective); contractibility (the property of masses and imperfectives whereby any subpart of an instance is itself an instance of its type); and expansibility (whereby combining two mass or imperfective instances yields a single, larger instance). Count vs. mass and perfective vs. imperfective are not rigid lexical distinctions, but are malleable owing to alternate construals as well as systematic patterns of extension. The conceptual characterization of perfective and imperfective verbs explains their contrasting behavior with respect to the English progressive and present tense.

Keywords:   bounding, construal, count noun, domain of instantiation, immediate scope, imperfective verb, mass noun, noun, perfective verb, present tense, progressive, semantic extension, type vs. instance, verb

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