(1) A term used in linguistic theory to refer to a category of linguistic universal; opposed to formal. Substantive universals are the primitive elements which a grammar establishes in order to analyse linguistic data, e.g. NP, VP, [+human], [+high] in generative grammar, or subject, verb, object, etc., in relational models.
(2) In some descriptive grammars, substantive is a term used in the classification of words, referring to the class of nouns (traditionally defined as ‘substances’, i.e. names of persons, places, things, etc.), and also to those items which function as nouns, though lacking some of the formal characteristics of that class (cf. the ‘substantival function’ of adjectives). The set of pronouns may also be included in this class.