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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: ekwi- 'horse' salt- 'jump' sup- 'over, above' flum- 'river' -b 'to be' -il '3rd sing., human -o 'imperative' 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) salto 'jump!' 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.