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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 Phonetics': "_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 l'eau. 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. Spanish: 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! Ray. ========================================= A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language. [J.G. Hamann 1760] =========================================