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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 >languages.
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 approximate.): 2) NOMINALIZATION of VERBS a) Agent 'uh 'engenengh that:+A eat:+V <the eater> 'uh pengeya' that:+A kill:+V <the killer> b) Patient 'uh 'elenengh that:+A eat:-V <the food> 'uh peleya' that:+A kill:-V <the victim> c) Instrument 'u' 'engenengh that:-A eat:+V <the eating-utensil> 'u' pengeya' that:-A kill:+V <the weapon> d) Location 'u' 'elenengh that:-A eat:-V <the eating-place> 'u' peleya' that:-A kill:-V <the killing-place> 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 kayh 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 setingh 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 animal> "The animal, the man killed it in the forest with a knife" c) TOPIC = INSTRUMENT 'u' pengeya' tuh setingh tuh kayh lu' kewey' 'u' pengesiwh 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 forest> "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 them: 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 Boreanesian. 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.... Regards, -Kristian- 8-)