Re: Sentences (was Re: Polysynthesis & Oligosynthesis)
|From:||Roger Mills <romilly@...>|
|Date:||Monday, August 26, 2002, 4:18|
Christopher Wright wrote:
>>Is the reply "a whole sentence [expressed] with just a verb"? If so,
>>why? If not, why not? What's a sentence?
>I defined it as "a coherent sequence of words (at least one) whose core
>argument is a verb". Now, I'm not sure. What about languages without a
>copula? Are their phrases that would include a copula not sentences? What
>about languages with a copula? Are their sentences that include copulae
>no longer sentences because their equivalents in other languages are not?
As you know, it's a very slippery concept. How about: "a coherent sequence
of meaningful morphemes, consisting minimally of a topic (or subject or
theme) and a comment (or predicate or rheme)" (Those terms are not
necessarily synonymous, but they'll do.) Note that this avoids the equally
slippery concept, "what is a word?"... which I think could be defined as "a
minimally meaningful morpheme, or sequence of morphemes, that can be uttered
in isolation". So in Engl. Latinate vocab, de-, con-, and -ceive are
morphemes but not words; deceive, conceive etc. are.
Imagine an overly simplified polysynthetic lang with these roots
(morphemes), which cannot occur in isolation:
sup- 'over, above'
-b 'to be'
-il '3rd sing., human
You could have: ekwisalt 'the horse jumped' (a sentence, also a word)
ekwisaltsupflum 'the horse jumped over the river' (a sentence, also a word)
ekwib 'it is a horse' (Could be the answer to "what's that?")
saltil 'he jumped' (of course requires a context, to know who "he" is)
saltosup 'jump over (it, understood in context)!'
This mini-explanation will no doubt be jumped on by those more
knowledgeable; I hasten to add it's not my field of expertise.