Book: Neo-Firthian Approaches to Linguistic Typology
Chapter: The Noun Phrase
A somewhat less well researched domain in typology concerns the category of noun phrase (NP) and its status cross-linguistically. Beginning with Hale (1983) the universality of the NP has been questioned, and a distinction drawn between configurational and non-configurational languages depending on whether or not the category of NP is motivated. (The contrast has been construed in other ways as well, e.g. in terms of the categoriality of the verb phrase, but the NP-based interpretation is widely employed.) The distinction between languages with vs. without the NP category has been widely accepted in linguistic typology and language description. Modern Indo-European are seen as typical examples of languages with the category NP, while Australian languages are widely believed to lack it. In this chapter I draw in particular on descriptive work of my own (e.g. McGregor 1989, 1990, 1992, 1997) and recent work by Jean-Christophe Verstraete and Dana Louagie (Louagie and Verstraete 2016; Louagie 2017) to argue for the universality of the noun phrase category in Australian languages. I stick my neck out, and suggest that the considerations invoked in these works call to question the existence of languages without noun phrases. The NP is accordingly proposed as a linguistic universal.