10/12/2014 - From Aristotle to generative grammar: Diachronic approaches to the definition of verb and noun


10/12/2014 - From Aristotle to generative grammar: Diachronic approaches to the definition of verb and noun

10/12/2014 10 dicembre 2014, ore 16.30

Sala dei Presidenti
Melita Stavrou
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Within the western grammatical/pedagogical tradition, the nature and origin of lexical categories ('μέρη τοῦ λόγου', 'Parts of Speech'-PoS hereafter) has been a great challenge for philosophers and grammarians ever since Plato and Aristotle, fιguring prominently in traditional grammar(s), linguistic typology, theoretical linguistics (of all persuasions), neurolinguistics. In the older times the fundamental questions concerning categories revolved around three intersecting axes; (a) the relation between categories as linguistic expressions and extralinguistic entities or events (designation), (b) categories as the  linguistic means of reasoning and argumentation (logical relations), and (c) the criteria according to which these may be categorized (giving rise to the Word and Paradigm pattern). More questions emerged and the old ones were reshaped and reformulated with the rise of linguistics and the discovery and study of a great number of languages not known in the past.
In this talk I will attempt a brief survey of the answers that have been given to (some of) the above questions over the centuries, starting from Aristotle as the base of traditional grammar. In assessing the answers, dominant views found within modern linguistic theory will be compared with foundational ancient theories. The conclusion that can be drawn is that many strands of the modern approaches to the definition of the PoS reflect (in one way or another) Aristotle's own original thought.
This research is novel in so far as it attempts a unified approach to word categorization by placing the ancient theories/views on an equal footing with their modern homologues; our analysis rather than being critical to the past will underline possible similarities between past and present.
I will focus on the verbal and the nominal category as the most central, possibly universal, categories trying to compare the basic tenets of modern linguistic theories of word classes to the model of Aristotle.


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