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
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.
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