LONG: Boreanesian Grammatical Structure (was: Only One Core Argument)
|From:||Kristian Jensen <kljensen@...>|
|Date:||Friday, December 18, 1998, 9:09|
Tim Smith wrote:
>At 04:51 PM 12/16/98 +0100, Kristian Jensen wrote:
>>I have posted details about Boreanesian sentence structure
>>before, but for the sake of clarity I could post a review for
>>those interested (especially for the newer members on CONLANG-
>>L). It'll definitely demonstrate what I mean by a language with
>>only one core argument. For those of you who are interested in
>>trigger languages in general, it may certainly be of interest.
>I'd like to see that reposted. I remember seeing it before, but
>I don't seem to have saved it. In fact, I was just recently
>trying to remember what you said several months ago about the
>underlying argument structure of the Philippine trigger
First, allow me to apologize for taking me this long to reply. I
wanted to make sure that what I was going to forward was up to date.
But I ended up rewriting everything of what I posted half a year
ago. I'd appreciate any comments, please. Anyways, here goes:
The most important feature I feel reflects Boreanesian (and other
trigger languages) most is their possession of only one core
argument - sentences and clauses with two core arguments do not
exist in Boreanesian. Instead, Boreanesian has only predicate
clauses with a single argument. Below are some English examples of
such predicate clauses:
1) SAMPLE of ENGLISH PREDICATE TYPES
a) Nominal Predicates
"Joe is an American"
"I am a conlanger"
b) Adjective Predicates
"My house is small"
"The plant is dead"
c) Existential Predicates
"There is a person in the house"
"There is a bag on the floor"
d) Locative Predicates
"The person is in the house"
"The bag is on the floor"
e) Possessive Predicates
"Melissa has two dogs"
"The floor has a bag on it"
The most common sentence type used in Boreanesian would be nominal
predicate (example 1a). Nominal predicates are used in such a way so
that the semantic role of the topic in the sentence can be
identified. This is done by nominalizing verbs as either an agent, a
patient, an instrument, or a location, and using them as predicates
in predicate nominals.
I'll digress a little now to discuss how nominalization is done in
Boreanesian. Nominalization is done by combining two types of
markings: animacy and volition. Boreanesian determiners indicate
animacy, while infixes to the verb mark presence or absence of
volition. So for instance, a word preceded by an animate determiner
(+A) and marked for volition (+V) is a nominalized agent. Below are
examples of these nominalizations as applied to the verbs "'enengh"
<eat> and "peya'" <kill> respectively. (NB.: English cannot make all
these nominalizations. So some of these examples are my attempts to
2) NOMINALIZATION of VERBS
These nominalized verbs are then used as part of the nominal
predicate construction to identify the semantic role of the topic.
For instance, if I wanted to say, "The man ate chicken", I would
have two options. One option topicalizes "the man" who is
semantically the most agent-like argument in this clause. Another
option topicalizes "the chicken" which is the most patient-like
argument in this clause. In other words, when using the verb for
"eating" in such a sentence, we could be talking of the agent or the
"eater" (example 2a), or the patient or the "food" (example 2b). The
examples below demonstrate how Boreanesian would use these two
nominalized nouns to translate "The man ate chicken" depending on
what the topic was suppose to be:
3) SAMPLE of TOPIC MARKING
a) TOPIC = AGENT
'uh 'engenengh tuh menu' 'uh kayh
that:+A:COR eat:+V that:+A:GEN chicken that:+A:COR man
lit. <the eater of the chicken was the man>
"The man, he ate a chicken"
b) TOPIC = PATIENT
'u' 'elenengh tuh kayh 'uh menu'
that:+A:COR eat:-V that:+A:GEN man that:+A:COR chicken
lit. <the food of the man was the chicken>
"A chicken, the man ate some"
Note that unlike English, Boreanesian does not have a verbal copula
like "to be". Nominal predicates are structured in Boreanesian
simply by juxtapositioning two noun phrases. The first noun phrase
is the predicate while the last noun phrase is the topic.
Note also that in each example, both the topic argument and the
predicate are preceded by particles marking the core (COR) case.
This is because these are actually the same kinds particles
applicable to both verbs and nouns in Boreanesian. They mark either
the bound (:B) or unbound phase. In Boreanesian, demonstratives are
used to mark the bound phase and they just happen to mark case as
well. For nominal predicates, phase determiners in the core case are
used before predicates. The bound phase and unbound phase correlates
with definiteness and indefinitenes in nouns respectively. Before
predicates, the bound and unbound phase can be understood as
correlating with the perfective aspect and the imperfective aspect
respectively. So it may seem like these examples have two core
arguments, but there is really only one.
In longer sentences with more arguments, the oblique case (:OBL) is
pressed into service. If I were to say, "The man killed the animal
with a knife in the forest.", all possible nominalizations of the
verb "kill" can be used as predicates since all four arguments could
potentially be promoted as topic. The examples below to demonstrate
this (you can compare the nominalizations done here with examples
given in example 2:
4) SAMPLE of TOPIC MARKING in LONGER SENTENCES
a) TOPIC = AGENT
'uh pengeya' tuh setingh lu' kewey' lu' pengesiwh 'uh
that:+A:COR kill:+V that:+A:GEN animal that:-A:OBL forest
that:-A:OBL cut:+V that:+A:COR man
lit. <the killer of the animal at the forest at the cutting-tool
was the man>
"The man, he killed the animal with a knife in the forest"
b) TOPIC = PATIENT
'uh peleya' tuh kayh lu' kewey' lu' pengesiwh 'uh
that:+A:COR kill:-V that:+A:GEN man that:-A:OBL forest
that:-A:OBL cut:+V that:+A:COR animal
lit. <the victim of the man at the forest at the knife was the
"The animal, the man killed it in the forest with a knife"
c) TOPIC = INSTRUMENT
'u' pengeya' tuh setingh tuh kayh lu' kewey' 'u'
that:-A:COR kill:+V that:+A:GEN animal that:+A:GEN man
that:-A:OBL forest that:-A:COR cut:+V
lit. <the man's killing-instrument of the animal at the forest
was the knife>
"The knife, the man killed the animal with it in the forest"
d) TOPIC = LOCATION
'u' peleya' tuh setingh tuh kayh lu' pengesiwh 'u' kewey'
that:-A:COR kill:-V that:+A:GEN animal that:+A:GEN man
that:-A:OBL cut:+V that:-A:COR forest
lit. <the man's killing-place of the animal at the knife was the
"The forest, the man killed the animal with a knife in it"
As one can see, the examples given in both 3 and 4 have only one
core argument: the topic of the sentence. One should also be able to
see that they are all nominal predicates in that the predication is
embodied in a nominalized verb. One would almost assume that there
are no verbs in the language. That would, however, be a wrong
assumption. There ARE verbs! They are just never used as verbs in
sentences the way most languages would use them. Instead, they are
nominalized first and use in nominal predicates.
The situation becomes a bit more extreme in other types of predicate
clauses with single arguments presented in example 1. Lets examine
Adjective predicates are the next type of single argument predicate
clauses given in 1. In Boreanesian, there is no well-oiled class of
adjectives. In Boreanesian, concepts that embody properties, e.g.
sick, blue, etc. function like nouns, i.e., "'eh ngehu'" <a sickly
person>, "'e' ngehu'" <a sickness>, "'eh keleh" <a red organism>,
"'e' keleh" <a red object>. So there are no predicate adjective
constructions in Boreanesian. Where English uses predicate
adjectives, Boreanesia still uses predicate nominals similar to what
was previously describe.
5) "CORE" (NOMINAL) PREDICATES
a) 'eh ngehu' 'uh kayh
+A:COR sickly-person that:+A:COR man
lit. <the man is a sickly person>
"The man is sick" (e.g. is an invalid person)
b) 'e' kewa' 'u' kehayh
-A:COR blue-thing that:-A:COR sky
lit. <the sky is a blue thing>
"the sky is blue"
c) 'eh pengeya' 'uh kayh
+A:COR kill:+V that:+A:COR man
"the man is a killer" or "the man killed"
Note that example 5c) can be interpreted in two ways in English.
Up until now, all predicates were introduced by particles that were
homophonous with determiners in the core case. There are other types
of predicates that are introduced by particles homophonous with
determiners in the oblique case. These are the next three types of
predicates introduced in example 1 (examples; 1c existential, 1d
locative, and 1e possessive predicates). I'll call these ELP
predicates. As a rule of thumb, if the property that is being
predicated is temporary, then the oblique is used. If the property
that is being predicated is permanent, then the core is used. But
there are many exceptions. A better rule is that predicate nominals
are always introduced by the core case, while the oblique case is
reserved for ELP predicates. Below are examples of ELP predicates in
6) "OBLIQUE" (ELP) PREDICATES
a) luh kayh 'e' ngehu'
that:+A:OBL man -A:COR cut:+V
lit. <at the man is a sickness>
"The man is sick" (e.g. has a fever)
b) li' kenah 'e' keyu'
this:-A:OBL floor -A:COR bag
lit. <at the floor is a bag>
"There's a bag on the floor" or "The floor has a bag on it"
Note the subtle difference in meaning between examples 5a and 6a. In
5a, a determiner in the core case was used giving a sense of
permanence to the concept of sickness. In contrast, 6a is introduced
by an oblique determiner giving a sense of temporariness.
Note also that although the least patient-like nouns are used as the
predicate, each of these examples can be interpreted in different
ways in English depending on which phrase is bound.
<school-bell ringing> Alright, time's up. For homework, don't forget
to write a ten page report on Borea....