Metaconlinguistic terminology et alia
|From:||Raymond A. Brown <raybrown@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, June 15, 1999, 17:39|
At 3:12 pm -0500 13/6/99, Tom Wier wrote:
>> subject-verb-object doesn't seem exactly difficult to me. This word order
>> is favored by both English & Chinese which probably accounts for more than
>> half the inhabitants of the planet.
>This doesn't really address the point, though. Of course SVO word order
>doesn't seem difficult to you,
Do please read what I say properly - I did mention the other few million
speakers of English _and_ the speakers of Chinese. I could have listed the
_very many_ languages from around the globe that use the SVO word order.
The other common word order is SOV but this, it seems to me, is less common
than SOV. The other one met with in natlangs is SVO; but this does seem
significantly less favored than the first two.
The other three word orders - VOS, OVS, OSV - are so unusual as normal,
unmarked word order (they may occur, of course, in inversions to mark some
feature such as topic and/or focus) that they are not worth considering for
a conIAL (but might be so for an artlang).
I can excuse your not having read any of my mails on AUXLANG, but even on
this list I have inveighed against those who think something is easy or
"natural" simply because that's the way it is done in English. (One of the
points of difference between myself & Mr Petry over Speedwords is that to
me Speedwords seems basically just a relexification of English.)
The attitude in your remark is *NOT* a position I hold and I rather resent
the implication that it is.
FYI, personally _I_ do not find cases particularly difficult (I've been
used to Latin for almost half a century & to ancient Greek almost as long);
but in a conIAL one does not IMHO indulge in one's personal predilictions,
but address oneself to what is like to prove most acceptable to others.
>but then, learning 17 cases doesn't seem difficult
>for Finnish people either.
On what evidence? Do Finnish children have no more or less trouble
acquiring their 17 cases than 1 and 2 year old anglophone children have
with word order?
Once the 17 cases have been acquired then, sure, there's probably no
appreciable difficulty one way or the other. The trouble is that a conIAL
will normally have to be _acquired_ as a second language.
>The point is that there is no objective way to be able
>to determine whether one is more difficult than the other.
I suppose the number of the earth's natlangs that possess case systems
vis-a-vis those that do not are no importance.
>> Even Esperanto's 2-case system has its traps for the unwary.
>Whoa, wait a minute here! Most people who learn a language aren't
>even aware of almost any of the rules that make up the grammar on
>any kind of conscious level.
They are when they have to acquire them as second or third languages as adults.
>For example, in English, you can say three
>of the following sentences, but not the fourth:
>(1) "Jack and Jill ran up the hill"
>(2) "Jack and Jill ran up the bill"
>(3) *"Jack and Jill ran the hill up"
>(4) "Jack and Jill ran the bill up"
>Now why is that? That's a pretty mysterious rule, if you ask me.
I don't ask, since I find no mystery in the 'rule'.
As John Cowan wrote t 11:31 am -0400 14/6/99:
"Not a bit. The sentences parse as:
"1) (Jack and Jill) ran (up the hill)
"2) (Jack and Jill) (ran up) (the bill)
"Postposing "up" to the end is possible only if it is part
"of the verb, not if it is a true preposition governing a noun
"phrase. (Apologies for mongrel terminology here.)
Apologies accepted :)
Indeed what we have here is an example of a simple intransitive verb and of
a phrasal verb.
Intransitive verbs cannot have objects; they may be modified only by
adverbs or, what we traditionalists call, 'adverbial phrases' (phrases that
function as adverbs). The first sentence may answer the question "WHERE
did J & J run?"
Such phrases are composed of a relational (particle) and a noun or noun
phrase. In English such relationals are preposited, hence the traditional
term 'preposition'. Some languages (e.g. Hindi, Japanese) prefer to place
relationals after the noun; English does not - hence we do not hear *'Jack
& Jill ran the hill up'.
In the second example we have a PHRASAL VERB governing a (direct) object.
It can answer only the ambiguous question "What did J & J run up?", not the
question "Where did J & J run?". The object has to be a noun or noun
English phrasal are but one realization of a millennia old IE feature
whereby a new verb is formed by compounding a relational with a verb; they
are diachronically cognate with the (separable) compound verbs of German,
the compound verbs so liked by the ancient Greeks & Romans and which are
still, I believe, much alive in the modern Slavlangs.
And I certainly didn't think up the notion of phrasal verbs. Most native
English speakers probably don't even notice their existence; but, I assure
you, non-native speakers do. For many years when we lived in south Wales
we had foreign language assistants living in with us. I'd always assumed
that what foreigners would find most difficult about English was our
spelling. Not a bit of it - that was merely a quaint English eccentricity.
No - what, without exception, they complained about were "English phrasal
So - no mystery: different verbs & different constructions.
(And don't muddy the waters with: "What did J & J run up?" "The hill". In
this question we are asking about the object of the relational 'up', not
the object of the verb. 'what' is separated from the relational 'up'
because of the English rule about fronting wh-words.)
>> There's no way you can explain why a metaphorical
>> treatment of a verb should be syntacticly encoded differently
>> than a concrete one.
Probably not, but as john said:
"Not metaphor vs. literal, but simple verb vs. verb-prep compound."
Yes - 'simple, intransitive verb' versus a 'transitive phrasal verb'.
As phrasal verbs cause so much trouble, I would not suggest having them in
>> >Personally, I see no expressive gain in e.g.
>> >German's distinction in wordorder between subordinate and main clauses.
>> Er - I don't recall anyone suggesting such a system for any conIAL.
>The point is not whether they suggest something for a conIAL
Sorry - but that IS the point.
This thread began IIRC because we were speaking about conIALs. If we're
speaking about conlangs in general, then I've misunderstood and there's
nothing to discuss. I've not the slightest problem with 17 or more cases
in an artlang!
In any case - excuse the pun - you think a fair degree of reaular
morphological apparatus with a fairly flexible word order (I assume) is
better in a conIAL than minimal morphology and a more rigid word order. On
this we differ and we'll probably get no forwarder however much we exchange
emails; as this is strictly an auxlang matter, it'll probably get tedious
to others, so may be we have to agree to differ and leave it at that.
>make syntactic distinctions just as strange and difficult as morphological
>distinctions, so why make a fuss over it? They're equally weird, so why
>should we deny this?
I certainly deny it. The scope for variation in word order is rather less
than the seemingly almost unlimited possibilities for prefixes, infixes &
As someone said recently, no language has completely free word-order; there
must be some order otherwise comprehension is impossible. But an
impressive number of languages do get by without a large morphological
And please do not accuse me of making the fuss. It is you who are arguing
that it is better to have a single, regular declension of nouns in a conIAL
rather than no declension at all, and asked me what I'd do without a noun
declension. Pardon me for replying.
>And I agree with you that an IAL doesn't have to be an auxilliary language,
>but I was trying to create some sort of terminological distinction that would
>allow you to refer to the following:
>(a) natlang: a language that developed naturally, without any kind of
>direct artificial creation.
>(b) auxilliary language, IAL: any language, constructed or not, that
>serves to aid intercommunity communication (as I said above)
>(c) conlang: just the opposite of (a), any language that was developed
>consciously and actively by a person or a group.
>(d) auxlang: a language created expressly to serve as an IAL
>(under the above definition)
>(e) artlang: any language created for artistic or aesthetic purposes.
>(f) loglang: any language created to be make communication more logical.
It would be nice if all terminology were clearly defined - but, alas, this
is not so (not even in 'new' disciplines like computer science :=(
For example, my understanding of 'loglang' is rather narrower than this and
links it to clausal form logic. And I can assure you than the terms IAL
and auxlang are, in practice, imprecise. I wish it were not but I think
neither you nor I will change this.
>Oh, no, certainly not. I thought you were trying to bring up some
>good discussion; I think we just happen to disagree on the terminology.
>I personally think the above scheme is more useful, although it would
>be even better if we could come up with a better (more obvious) term
>for what I have termed "auxlangs".
conIAL and natIAL ?