Semantic Classes of Bare Singular NPs

This paper outlines the lexical semantic categories of location nouns found as bare singular NPs, based on an examination of 922 naturally occurring tokens. The study reveals that the nouns fall into five classes, determined by characteristics of the referent of each NP and the type of preposition with which the NPs occur.

The largest group is social/geographical spaces (e.g., at camp, in court, off planet) containing six subtypes: controlled zones, religious settings, educational settings, parts of a household, nautical settings, and natural features. These bare singular forms, whose use is tied to a conventionally implicated meaning, have additional semantic constraints: either the location must be a place of a habitual activity (thus at church and in school but not *at park or *in library) or the location must be able to be referred to deictically as meaning this base, my campus, etc.

The smaller groups are recording media, framing expressions, two subtypes of temporal interruption events, and purely metaphorical uses.

Though membership in these groups is by itself insufficient to predict that an NP will show up in bare form, these divisions reveal information about how speakers categorize the referents of bare singular NPs.

Return to Laurel's home page.