Glossary: gradience

Explanation

This is a term used in linguistics to recognise that on the one hand there are typical and less typical members of grammatical categories (this is called subsective gradience), and on the other hand that the boundaries between grammatical categories may not be absolutely fixed (this is called intersective gradience).

For example, let’s look at the fuzziness or gradience of the noun category. Cat, table and apple are all deemed to be ‘prototypical’ members of this category. They are physical objects; they take a possessive form; they can be plural or singular, and they can appear after a determiner.

But news and information are more peripheral examples of nouns. The former is always in the plural, and the latter cannot take a plural ending.

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