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Remarks on the Lexicographical Treatment of Metaforms

William Frawley


This paper examines the way dictionaries describe meta forms, items that refer to the linguistic system itself (e.g., pronouns and indexicals). The paper first shows the inconsistent grammatical classification of metaforms, which are usually and incorrectly categorized as adverbs, conjunctions, prepOSitions, or interjections. It is then argued that metaforms should be classified in their currently known grammatical categories: discourse marker (now), focus particle (even, like), quotative (like), and so on. Discussion then turns to the definitions of meta forms, with illustration of their incorrect or misleading semantic characterization and suggestions for capturing their denotations consistently. This examination of the lexicography of metaforms is ultimately a case study in how dictionary making might be informed by judicious use of current grammatical, semantic, and pragmatic theory.
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