Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: How many verbs?

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Monday, July 19, 2004, 18:22
Oh, dear - we're still kilometres - indeed, it seems like light years -

On Sunday, July 18, 2004, at 10:19 , Philippe Caquant wrote:

> To summarize briefly (?):
We even have different concepts of 'brief'.
> - I think that the general concept of 'verb' has > little interest because different languages will give > a different idea of what is a verb
If you had not got into the habit of exaggerating, you would see the folly of that statement. There is a commonality.
> - and also because, even in a particular language, the > concept of 'verb' includes a whole lot of things > having as little to do together as cats and dogs
Cats & dogs, in fact, have a lot in common, both being carnivorous mammals & quadrupeds, for example. But by your argument all syntax & parts of speech are meaningless. We already know what you think of phonetics & phonology. Presumably you also assign both syntax and morphology the same low level of importance.
> For ex:
[snip] The examples simply illustrate that you've missed the points I've been trying to make.
> What Trask says seems to lead to even more awful > conclusions: "Each verb typically requires, etc" : I > understand it as "every single verb will work the way > it decided to work".
*shrug* - What did Larry Trask know about linguistics? Either you have poor understanding of English or you are just being bloody minded. You deliberately to ignore the word "typically" entirely. He was talking about the fact (which you probably don't accept) that some verbs have only one argument (we traditionally call then 'intransitive'), some need two arguments (transitive verbs), some three arguments (ditransitive verbs) - I wont get into the 'complications' of ergative & accusative languages etc. Verbs, I should like to pint out, don't actually decide to do anything.
> So you might as well say that > cats are dogs who decided not to bark, but to mew.
Stop being so childish.
> Recently, there was a discussion here about the way of > treating the verb "to be" in a conlang. But "to be" is > an English verb, that means that, if you start from > this point of view, your idea will be biased from the > beginning.
If you had followed the thread you'd have seen references to _other_ languages, the fact other languages use two or three different verbs covering the _different_ uses of English "to be", and in some cases used no verb. But, "to be" is referred to as 'the copula'. This suggests, I think, that it is not typical and is a special case - which it is.
> > AFAIK, in Chinese, there is no real distinction > between noun and verb.
Urban myth. [snip]
> I opened my "Grammaire Basque" (Pierre Laffitte): "Le > verbe est le mot qui sert ‡ indiquer l'Ètat ou > l'action du sujet".
[snip] The fact that some (possibly all - I don't know) of your grammars say such things does not mean that all grammars do. They do not.
> "You appear to dismiss everything except semantics". > Let's say that semantics (and cognition) is what is > really interesting me. The rest of it looks very much > like surface schemes to me, or apparences.
Does it? I see - you consider semantics the 'essence' (in the Aristotelian sense) of language & all the rest mere accidence. As I said - we have little in common.
> Isn't it a > scientific way of thinking to try to go beyond > apparences, or to get to a higher level of abstraction > ?
Yes, it is - which is what I tried to do with the abstract concept of 'verb', which you summarily dismiss because you will not go beyond the appearences (which you quoted, and I snipped). In the same way that you seem unwilling to go beyond the surface level of sounds and cope with abstractions like phonemes.
> So if I had to think about a new conlang (but this is > only my personal point of view), I would first analyse > the different concepts we can find, for example when > examining English or French verbs
Up above you say "But 'to be' is an English verb, that means that, if you start from this point of view, your idea will be biased from the beginning" , now you're advocating starting from English & French!! Won't that make your ideas biased from the beginning? But I see little point in continuing this wearisome exchange, as our views on 'language' (abstract concept) are so far apart. Maybe, like Mark, I'd better stick with cookery, which is also a hobby of mine. Ray =============================================== (home) (work) =============================================== "A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760