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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The destiny of roots in Blackfoot and Lithuanian Armoskaite, Solveiga


Roots and their categorization constitute a fundamental aspect of knowledge about the structure of language. Essentially, the categorization of roots serves to classify linguistic information. In this dissertation I explore the categorization of roots in Blackfoot (Algonquian) and Lithuanian (Baltic), languages which are unrelated typologically or genetically. Relying on the interaction between roots and affixes, I develop language specific diagnostics necessary to establish the categorial affiliation of a given root. I show that all Blackfoot roots are uniquely associated with a particular category, i.e. they are categorized. Meanwhile, Lithuanian roots split into two types: some are categorized, and some are category-neutral. This variation in the categorization of roots requires an explanation. I propose that the categorial destiny of a root is determined by (i) a category intrinsic feature c (such as e.g., animacy, gender, transitivity, and degree); and (ii) the categorization structure hosting the feature c. There are two sources of variation: i) the origin of the feature c; and ii) the content of the feature c. Roots that are endowed with the feature c prior to syntax are of a unique category; roots that attain their feature c in syntax are category-neutral. In addition, the content of feature c may differ across languages. According to this proposal, the notion of category is not a primitive but a construct.

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