This won't take long

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Editors at the OED have hesitated over the part-of-speech attribution of long in such idioms as I won't be long / This won't take long / before long, considering Adverb, Adjective, Noun and even Pronoun. I review the evidence for word class in their data. In previous work I have argued against the assumption that every word in every grammatical sentence must belong to one and only one word class. An extended discussion in Denison (2013) suggested that key in a key decision cannot be assigned in any non-arbitrary fashion to either N or Adj, and that it is best regarded as underspecified. I will make a similar claim for Adj ~ Adv underspecification in certain usages of long. Two questions follow from this. Does this support the case for conflating the Adj and Adv classes (Giegerich 2012)? And if not, is this word class vagueness of the same structural type as the type with noun premodifiers like key? Denison, David. 2013. Parts of speech: Solid citizens or slippery customers? Journal of the British Academy 1, 151-85. Giegerich, Heinz J. 2012. The morphology of –ly and the categorial status of 'adverbs' in English. English Language and Linguistics 16.3, 341-59.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
EventYork-Holland Symposium on the History of English Syntax (SHES12) - University of Manchester
Duration: 17 May 201418 May 2014


ConferenceYork-Holland Symposium on the History of English Syntax (SHES12)
CityUniversity of Manchester


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