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Re: the Deep Structures of Language

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  • H. S. Teoh
    ... [...] Finally got around to reading this article today. Very interesting indeed! Speaking of animacy... I remember the first time I read about MRL
    Message 1 of 15 , Sep 19, 2013
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      On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 12:07:59PM -0600, Logan Kearsley wrote:
      > On 18 September 2013 11:54, Paul Schleitwiler, FCM
      > <pjschleitwilerfcm@...> wrote:
      > > Interesting article.
      > > How to Understand the Deep Structures of Language
      > > Scientific American
      > > Joshua K. Hartshorne September 17, 2013 7:00 AM
      > > http://news.yahoo.com/understand-deep-structures-language-110000347.html
      >
      > Quote: "The researchers also asked people to describe in gestures an
      > event in which a girl kicked a boy. Since both boys and girls are
      > capable of kicking, it's very possible to be confused about who kicked
      > who. And now participants were much more likely to describe (in
      > gesture) the girl, then the kicking event, and then the boy -- that
      > is, they switched to an SVO order. This was true (with a few
      > complications which you can read about in the paper) whether the
      > participant was a native speaker of English (an SVO language) or a
      > native speaker of Korean or Japanese (SOV languages)."
      >
      > This raises the question: is there a language that switches between
      > SOV and SVO based on an animacy distinction? And if not, who's going
      > to make one?
      [...]

      Finally got around to reading this article today. Very interesting
      indeed!

      Speaking of animacy... I remember the first time I read about MRL
      languages and wondered how on earth the speakers would be able to make
      any sense of each other, since there is no way to tell who did something
      to whom. Then I read about animacy distinctions: if a clause contains
      two NPs, and one is animate and the other is not, then chances are the
      verb is performed by the animate NP, so neither NPs need to be marked
      for their roles, even when word order is free.

      Later on, I observed a similar phenomenon in Russian: although Russian
      nouns inflect for case, one thing I initially found puzzling was the
      fact that the nominative and accusative cases of many nouns have
      identical surface forms. Since Russian has free word order, I wondered
      how one would be able to tell which one is the subject and which the
      object if one couldn't tell between a nominative form and an accusative
      form! And then I remembered animacy: if one of the NPs is animate, then
      it is most likely the subject, and therefore the inanimate NP must be
      the object. So it didn't matter that, morphologically speaking, you
      couldn't distinguish whether inanimate the NP was nominative or
      accusative; animacy resolves the ambiguity. And sure enough, it was the
      inanimate nouns (masculine & neuter) that had identical forms for
      nominative and accusative.

      But when an *animate* NP was the object, then it took on a distinct
      accusative ending -- which is identical to the *genitive* ending! This
      makes sense since when both NPs in a transitive clause are animate,
      animacy can no longer distinguish between them, so some other kind of
      marking was necessary. Now, I'm no expert in Slavic historical
      linguistics, but I found it interesting that the animate accusative case
      has the same forms as the genitive case -- it almost seems as though
      there is no "native" accusative form at all (for masc/neut. nouns), but
      the genitive case is just being "borrowed" to serve as a distinct case
      from the default (nominative) when the clause has two animate NPs.

      Interestingly enough, the feminine nouns do have distinct
      nominative/accusative endings, and the accusative ending is not the same
      as the genitive. Why this odd difference from the masc/neut nouns? I
      don't really know, though I have my theories.


      T

      --
      Fact is stranger than fiction.
    • Adnan Majid
      That s a very cool observation T, That s very similar to Bengali, a SOV language which uses an object marker *only if the object is animate.* So one would say
      Message 2 of 15 , Sep 19, 2013
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        That's a very cool observation T,

        That's very similar to Bengali, a SOV language which uses an object
        marker *only
        if the object is animate.* So one would say "Girl ball kick" vs "Girl
        boy-ke kick." Furthermore, Bengali allows for a certain amount of word
        order flexibility, so though it may sound a little odd, it would still be
        comprehensible to express these statements as OSV - "Ball girl kick" and
        "Boy-ke girl kick." There's no ambiguity in "Ball girl kick" because the
        girl's animacy is assumed.

        And take a look at the classic Indo-European languages, Latin, Greek, and
        Sanskrit. In each language more often than not, there is no difference
        between the neuter nominative and the neuter accusative! Maybe that's
        because neuter nouns happen to predominantly be inanimate ones.

        Adnan


        On Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 4:05 PM, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:

        > On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 12:07:59PM -0600, Logan Kearsley wrote:
        > > On 18 September 2013 11:54, Paul Schleitwiler, FCM
        > > <pjschleitwilerfcm@...> wrote:
        > > > Interesting article.
        > > > How to Understand the Deep Structures of Language
        > > > Scientific American
        > > > Joshua K. Hartshorne September 17, 2013 7:00 AM
        > > >
        > http://news.yahoo.com/understand-deep-structures-language-110000347.html
        > >
        > > Quote: "The researchers also asked people to describe in gestures an
        > > event in which a girl kicked a boy. Since both boys and girls are
        > > capable of kicking, it's very possible to be confused about who kicked
        > > who. And now participants were much more likely to describe (in
        > > gesture) the girl, then the kicking event, and then the boy -- that
        > > is, they switched to an SVO order. This was true (with a few
        > > complications which you can read about in the paper) whether the
        > > participant was a native speaker of English (an SVO language) or a
        > > native speaker of Korean or Japanese (SOV languages)."
        > >
        > > This raises the question: is there a language that switches between
        > > SOV and SVO based on an animacy distinction? And if not, who's going
        > > to make one?
        > [...]
        >
        > Finally got around to reading this article today. Very interesting
        > indeed!
        >
        > Speaking of animacy... I remember the first time I read about MRL
        > languages and wondered how on earth the speakers would be able to make
        > any sense of each other, since there is no way to tell who did something
        > to whom. Then I read about animacy distinctions: if a clause contains
        > two NPs, and one is animate and the other is not, then chances are the
        > verb is performed by the animate NP, so neither NPs need to be marked
        > for their roles, even when word order is free.
        >
        > Later on, I observed a similar phenomenon in Russian: although Russian
        > nouns inflect for case, one thing I initially found puzzling was the
        > fact that the nominative and accusative cases of many nouns have
        > identical surface forms. Since Russian has free word order, I wondered
        > how one would be able to tell which one is the subject and which the
        > object if one couldn't tell between a nominative form and an accusative
        > form! And then I remembered animacy: if one of the NPs is animate, then
        > it is most likely the subject, and therefore the inanimate NP must be
        > the object. So it didn't matter that, morphologically speaking, you
        > couldn't distinguish whether inanimate the NP was nominative or
        > accusative; animacy resolves the ambiguity. And sure enough, it was the
        > inanimate nouns (masculine & neuter) that had identical forms for
        > nominative and accusative.
        >
        > But when an *animate* NP was the object, then it took on a distinct
        > accusative ending -- which is identical to the *genitive* ending! This
        > makes sense since when both NPs in a transitive clause are animate,
        > animacy can no longer distinguish between them, so some other kind of
        > marking was necessary. Now, I'm no expert in Slavic historical
        > linguistics, but I found it interesting that the animate accusative case
        > has the same forms as the genitive case -- it almost seems as though
        > there is no "native" accusative form at all (for masc/neut. nouns), but
        > the genitive case is just being "borrowed" to serve as a distinct case
        > from the default (nominative) when the clause has two animate NPs.
        >
        > Interestingly enough, the feminine nouns do have distinct
        > nominative/accusative endings, and the accusative ending is not the same
        > as the genitive. Why this odd difference from the masc/neut nouns? I
        > don't really know, though I have my theories.
        >
        >
        > T
        >
        > --
        > Fact is stranger than fiction.
        >
      • Leonardo Castro
        ... I wonder if the choice for SVO order in this case is due to the real-life temporal order. Até mais! Leonardo
        Message 3 of 15 , Sep 20, 2013
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          2013/9/19 H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>:
          > On Wed, Sep 18, 2013 at 12:07:59PM -0600, Logan Kearsley wrote:
          >> On 18 September 2013 11:54, Paul Schleitwiler, FCM
          >> <pjschleitwilerfcm@...> wrote:
          >> > Interesting article.
          >> > How to Understand the Deep Structures of Language
          >> > Scientific American
          >> > Joshua K. Hartshorne September 17, 2013 7:00 AM
          >> > http://news.yahoo.com/understand-deep-structures-language-110000347.html
          >>
          >> Quote: "The researchers also asked people to describe in gestures an
          >> event in which a girl kicked a boy. Since both boys and girls are
          >> capable of kicking, it's very possible to be confused about who kicked
          >> who. And now participants were much more likely to describe (in
          >> gesture) the girl, then the kicking event, and then the boy -- that
          >> is, they switched to an SVO order. This was true (with a few
          >> complications which you can read about in the paper) whether the
          >> participant was a native speaker of English (an SVO language) or a
          >> native speaker of Korean or Japanese (SOV languages)."

          I wonder if the choice for SVO order in this case is due to the
          real-life temporal order.

          Até mais!

          Leonardo
        • Jörg Rhiemeier
          Hallo conlangers! ... Spanish is the same: La muchacha vide la pelota. La muchacha vide al muchacho. (al = a el) (I changed the verb because _pisar_ to kick
          Message 4 of 15 , Sep 20, 2013
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            Hallo conlangers!

            On Friday 20 September 2013 06:18:18 Adnan Majid wrote:

            > That's a very cool observation T,
            >
            > That's very similar to Bengali, a SOV language which uses an object
            > marker *only
            > if the object is animate.* So one would say "Girl ball kick" vs "Girl
            > boy-ke kick."

            Spanish is the same:

            La muchacha vide la pelota.
            La muchacha vide al muchacho. (al = a el)

            (I changed the verb because _pisar_ 'to kick' marks its object
            with a preposition.)

            Both languages go parallel in that the animate object marker
            is in origin a dative marker (Bengali -ke is from PIE *kWoi,
            the dative of the interrogative pronoun; in Spanish, _a_
            still functions as a dative marker).

            > Furthermore, Bengali allows for a certain amount of word
            > order flexibility, so though it may sound a little odd, it would still be
            > comprehensible to express these statements as OSV - "Ball girl kick" and
            > "Boy-ke girl kick." There's no ambiguity in "Ball girl kick" because the
            > girl's animacy is assumed.
            >
            > And take a look at the classic Indo-European languages, Latin, Greek, and
            > Sanskrit. In each language more often than not, there is no difference
            > between the neuter nominative and the neuter accusative! Maybe that's
            > because neuter nouns happen to predominantly be inanimate ones.

            Yes. The nominative and accusative case are *always* the same
            in neuter nouns, not just "more often than not".

            AFMCL, Old Albic is similar. Animate nouns have an agentive case
            marked zero and an objective case marked -m. (The reason for
            these idiosyncratic case names is that the whole system follows
            an active/stative alignment.) Inanimate nouns have a zero-marked
            objective and no agentive.

            My personal hypothesis is that the IE system with the above
            mentioned peculiarity evolved from something similar to the Old
            Albic system (Old Albic is meant to represent a conservative
            language that branched off Pre-PIE before the latter shifted
            from active-stative to accusative among other profound changes
            to its structure.)

            --
            ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf
            http://www.joerg-rhiemeier.de/Conlang/index.html
            "Bêsel asa Éam, a Éam atha cvanthal a cvanth atha Éamal." - SiM 1:1
          • C. Brickner
            ... Hallo conlangers! Spanish is the same: La muchacha vide la pelota. La muchacha vide al muchacho. (al = a el)
            Message 5 of 15 , Sep 20, 2013
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              ----- Original Message -----
              Hallo conlangers!

              Spanish is the same:

              La muchacha vide la pelota.
              La muchacha vide al muchacho. (al = a el)
              ________________________________________________

              Are you trying to say "The girl sees the boy"? I don't know a Spanish verb "vid-". Of course, it's not my L1.
              If so, that should be:

              La muchacha ve la pelota.
              La muchacha ve al muchacho. (al = a el)

              Charlie
            • Jörg Rhiemeier
              Hallo conlangers! ... Thank you for your correction. ... -- ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf http://www.joerg-rhiemeier.de/Conlang/index.html Bêsel asa
              Message 6 of 15 , Sep 20, 2013
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                Hallo conlangers!

                On Friday 20 September 2013 21:56:29 C. Brickner wrote:

                > ----- Original Message -----
                > Hallo conlangers!
                >
                > Spanish is the same:
                >
                > La muchacha vide la pelota.
                > La muchacha vide al muchacho. (al = a el)
                > ________________________________________________
                >
                > Are you trying to say "The girl sees the boy"? I don't know a Spanish verb
                > "vid-". Of course, it's not my L1. If so, that should be:
                >
                > La muchacha ve la pelota.
                > La muchacha ve al muchacho. (al = a el)

                Thank you for your correction.

                > Charlie
                --
                ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf
                http://www.joerg-rhiemeier.de/Conlang/index.html
                "Bêsel asa Éam, a Éam atha cvanthal a cvanth atha Éamal." - SiM 1:1
              • Eric Christopherson
                ... MRL? All I kind find is morphology-rich languages ; but that doesn t seem appropriate.
                Message 7 of 15 , Sep 22, 2013
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                  On Sep 19, 2013, at 6:05 PM, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:

                  > Speaking of animacy... I remember the first time I read about MRL
                  > languages and wondered how on earth the speakers would be able to make
                  > any sense of each other, since there is no way to tell who did something
                  > to whom.

                  MRL?

                  All I kind find is "morphology-rich languages"; but that doesn't seem appropriate.
                • Ph. D.
                  ... MRL = Monster Raving Loony; languages which have one form for S and another for both A and P. --Ph. D.
                  Message 8 of 15 , Sep 22, 2013
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                    On 9/22/2013 9:17 PM, Eric Christopherson wrote:
                    > On Sep 19, 2013, at 6:05 PM, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:
                    >
                    >> Speaking of animacy... I remember the first time I read about MRL
                    >> languages and wondered how on earth the speakers would be able to make
                    >> any sense of each other, since there is no way to tell who did something
                    >> to whom.
                    > MRL?
                    >
                    > All I kind find is "morphology-rich languages"; but that doesn't seem appropriate.

                    MRL = Monster Raving Loony; languages which have one form for S and
                    another for both A and P.

                    --Ph. D.
                  • Alex Fink
                    ... http://www.frathwiki.com/Conlang_terminology#Conlang-exclusive_terms updated. Alex
                    Message 9 of 15 , Sep 23, 2013
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                      On Sun, 22 Sep 2013 21:54:35 -0400, Ph. D. <phil@...> wrote:

                      >On 9/22/2013 9:17 PM, Eric Christopherson wrote:
                      >> On Sep 19, 2013, at 6:05 PM, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:
                      >>
                      >>> Speaking of animacy... I remember the first time I read about MRL
                      >>> languages and wondered how on earth the speakers would be able to make
                      >>> any sense of each other, since there is no way to tell who did something
                      >>> to whom.
                      >> MRL?
                      >>
                      >> All I kind find is "morphology-rich languages"; but that doesn't seem appropriate.
                      >
                      >MRL = Monster Raving Loony; languages which have one form for S and
                      >another for both A and P.

                      http://www.frathwiki.com/Conlang_terminology#Conlang-exclusive_terms updated.

                      Alex
                    • Eric Christopherson
                      ... Oh! And of course there are languages where NPs aren t marked for S, A, -or- P. I recall a little bit of an example of such a language in _Describing
                      Message 10 of 15 , Sep 23, 2013
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                        On Sep 23, 2013, at 3:49 AM, Alex Fink <000024@...> wrote:

                        > On Sun, 22 Sep 2013 21:54:35 -0400, Ph. D. <phil@...> wrote:
                        >
                        >> On 9/22/2013 9:17 PM, Eric Christopherson wrote:
                        >>> On Sep 19, 2013, at 6:05 PM, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:
                        >>>
                        >>>> Speaking of animacy... I remember the first time I read about MRL
                        >>>> languages and wondered how on earth the speakers would be able to make
                        >>>> any sense of each other, since there is no way to tell who did something
                        >>>> to whom.
                        >>> MRL?
                        >>>
                        >>> All I kind find is "morphology-rich languages"; but that doesn't seem appropriate.
                        >>
                        >> MRL = Monster Raving Loony; languages which have one form for S and
                        >> another for both A and P.
                        >
                        > http://www.frathwiki.com/Conlang_terminology#Conlang-exclusive_terms updated.
                        >
                        > Alex

                        Oh! And of course there are languages where NPs aren't marked for S, A, -or- P. I recall a little bit of an example of such a language in _Describing morphosyntax_; in that language, it is at least allowed (though I'm not sure if it's preferred) to say "A girl kicked; a boy was kicked".
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