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Journal article Open Access

Escaping ethnocentrism in the study of word-class universals

Haspelmath, Martin

This paper discusses Sandra Chung's claim (in the same journal) that Chamorro has the three major word-classes (lexical categories) noun, verb, adjective after all, despite earlier claims that it distinguishes between Class I and Class II words. I note that there are several different ways in which Chamorro major-class words can be classified, and that there is no a priori reason for favouring one over the others. Chung's argument that Chamorro's word-classes are like English word-classes thus runs the risk of ethnocentrism. While it is true that Chamorro can be seen to have the same word-classes as English, English could equally well be seen to have the two classes that were earlier posited for Chamorro (Class I and Class II).

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