I explore the bases of a ‘distributionalist’ approach to syntactic categories, that is, an approach that makes distinctions on the basis of purely syntactic (as opposed to, say, semantic) criteria. I focus on the phenomenon of ‘mixed projections’, where a syntactic phrase appears to display properties of more than one syntactic category, as analysed within the framework of Lexical-Functional Grammar. I argue that of the three syntactic criteria called upon in the definition of syntactic categories within this approach, only one, the internal syntactic structure of a phrase, is a sufficient criterion for syntactic categorization. This leads to a more restricted definition of category mixing and implies a more restricted approach to categorization in general.
I am grateful for insightful comments and criticisms to Andrew Spencer, to the audience at SE-LFG 20, 21 May 2016, in particular Louisa Sadler, John Payne, Miriam Butt and Jamie Findlay, and to the audience at HEADLEX16, 25 July 2016, in particular Bob Borsley and Dag Haug. I am also very grateful to Lama Alhelou for assistance with the Arabic data. This work was supported by a grant from the Jill Hart Fund for Indo-Iranian Philology at the University of Oxford, and parts of the work were undertaken while I was in receipt of an Early Career Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust. All errors are of course my own.
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