Re: Word boundaries
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Friday, August 25, 2000, 20:13|
At 10:57 am -0600 25/8/00, dirk elzinga wrote:
>On Fri, 25 Aug 2000, H. S. Teoh wrote:
>> I'm just been thinking... how "real" or how artificial are word
>> boundaries? Especially for languages that don't have word boundaries in
>> their (original) writing systems. Why must we treat every language
>> (nat/conlang) as if they have units called "words"?
>There are several answers to the question, "What is a word?";
Yes, indeed. I quote from David Crystal's 'Dictionary of Linguistics and
"_word_ A unit of expression which has universal intuitive recognition by
native speakers, in both spoken and written language. However, there are
several difficulties in arriving at a consistent use of the term in
relation to other categories of linguistic description, and in the
comparison of different structural types............"
Even in the comparison of languages of similar structural types, there is
not consistency, e.g. enclitics (such as -ne, -ue, -que ) are not counted
as separate words in Latin, whereas they are conventially treated as
separate words both in ancient & modern Greek; compare, e.g.:
Latin: uiri feminaeque
Greek: andres gynaikes te
men women-and = men and women
Similar considerations apply to procltics. For all intents and purposes
/dlo/ forms a single 'spoken word', but it's written as three words: de
There is much conventionality about what traditionally constitutes a "word"
and, as Dirk rightly says, a phonologist and a syntactician may well
disagree over what constitutes a word boundary in some hitherto unrecorded
language. And established, written languages often take historic
considerations into account; e.g. the pre-verbal procomplements of the
Romance languages are written as separate words because they were separate
words in Latin. Interestling, however, in Italian, Spanish and IIRC
Portuguese, post-verbal procomplements are not written separately, cf.
No los tomen = don't take them
tómenlos = taken them
'tis a matter of convention. If you want your conlang to behave as nearly
as possible like a natlangs (as, e.g. Tolkien wanted his languages to
behave) then you follow the conventions of the natlangs your use as models
or bases of inspiration. If you want your conlang to be experimental or
have some 'unnatural' look, then anything goes :)
Just try different word divisions in your conlang, if you're unsure, and
then choose what looks best to you - after all, it is _your_ conlang. The
main thing IMHO about conlanging is to try out different ideas & experiment
and, above all, have fun!
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]