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An empirical investigation into the nature and degree of nominality

Carr, Alexander 2022. An empirical investigation into the nature and degree of nominality. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis presents an empirical investigation into the nature and degree of nominality, from a semantic perspective. To achieve an empirical understanding of nominal semantic behaviour,the research fundamentally draws upon the framework of Lexical Aspect (Vender 1967) and applies it in the nominal domain. The thesis is separated into two distinct studies, taking a multi-faceted approach. The first study extracts 5000 nominal instances from the British National Corpus (BNC 2022) and explores how nominals express events and states, by focusing on the extent to which nominal category features, such as abstract/concrete status, count/mass status, genre, and word formation type, influence semantic expression. The results reveal that while abstract/concrete status holds the greatest influence over semantic behaviour, variable interactions between abstract/concrete status, count/mass status and word formation type are highly responsible for expression of different semantic distributions. The second study takes a smaller scale approach, extracting 500 instances of four Underived event nominals (UENs) (n=2000) from the Timestamped JSI Web Corpus English (Trampus et al. 2004), and focusing specifically on how definiteness and the process type of the clause (Halliday 1985) influence the semantic behaviour of the four UENs. The results suggests that definiteness and process type are largely uninfluential on the semantic expression of the UENs. However, the divergent semantic behaviour of the UENs signals a difference in semantic flexibility between nominals. Through closer inspection of this semantic behaviour, it is proposed that nominals that share an association with (human) agency may be more susceptible to semantic coercion, due to the capacity of agents to exert control over situations and enact change. This research concludes that the influence of nominal category features on semantic behaviour is highly interconnected and that while notions such as boundedness, homogeneity and telicity are certainly transferable between nominal and verb domains, each lexical class presents different semantic constraints on how these concepts behave. Furthermore, this thesis concludes that associations of (human) agency may be highly relevant to the extent to which a nominal is semantically flexible.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 March 2023
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2023 12:08

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