Anna Kibort & Greville G. Corbett, University of Surrey

Proposed Grammatical Features Resource

The Grammatical Features Resources project is complementary to GOLD, and the motivation for offering the paper is to aim for useful interaction. The practical approach taken in GOLD has been to obtain a list of possible feature values from a selected source, with possible supplementation from other sources (Farrar, Lewis & Langendoen 2002). This sidesteps two major issues in constructing a feature/value inventory, namely the analysis problem and the correspondence problem. The proposed features site is intended to provide resources for addressing these substantial issues.

Analysis requires us to state how we show that a particular language has, or has not, a given feature. The obvious ploy of requiring a phonological realization is shown to be inadequate for instances like person in Archi, where no single form demonstrates the existence of the feature and yet there are good arguments for person in this language. If the existence of a feature is demonstrable, we must then show how many values it has. Again requiring a phonological realization is too simple. There are instances in the literature of careful argumentation for difficult instances, notably the debate as to the number of case values in Russian (Zaliznjak 1973 and Comrie 1986). Establishing the values of number proved a long and difficult undertaking (given in particular the various references to quadrals in the literature, see Corbett 2000: 26–30). The site will offer two types of relevant information: first, the arguments which have been used to justify postulating features and values (with reference to the sources), and second, instances of challenging systems (which are typically those with most and sometimes with least values).

Consider now the correspondence problem, starting with the simplest instance. French and Slovene both have masculine and feminine genders. Do they correspond? Yes, in the sense that nouns denoting females are typically assigned to the feminine gender. No, if we consider that French has two genders and Slovene three. But there are much more challenging cases. Romanian has two genders like French, if we look at agreement targets, but three like Slovene if we consider the nouns. The contribution here of the features resource site will be to provide outline typologies, so that labels such as ‘F’ or ‘N’ can be referred to a typology, clarifying the type of system within which they are functioning. The underlying philosophy, which is in tune with work on GOLD, is to offer useful tools for analysis and annotation.

Comrie, Bernard. 1986. On delimiting case. In: Richard D. Brecht & James S. Levine(eds)        Case in Slavic, 86-106. Columbus, OH: Slavica.
Corbett, Greville G. 2000. Number. Cambridge: CUP.
Farrar, Scott, William D. Lewis & D. Terence Langendoen 2002. A common ontology for        linguistic concepts. Proceedings of the Knowledge Technology Conference, Seattle,        WA, March 2002.
Zaliznjak, A. A. 1973. O ponimanii termina ‘padez’ v lingvistièeskix opisanijax. In: A. A.        Zaliznjak (ed.) Problemy grammatièeskogo modelirovanija, 53-87. Moscow: Nauka.