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Trigger languages Re: Fur ther language development Q's

From:Dan Saunders <obeythehamster@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 20:55
In a message dated 9/21/2004 16:42:53 Eastern Daylight Time,
ThatBlueCat@AOL.COM writes:

Rodlox wrote:

<<what is a trigger language?   are there language groups/families in
> > triggers are not found? what purpose do triggers serve?>>
There's no simple way to explain this, because there's no simple answer. Triggers are things found in languages like Tagalog, and other languages like Tagalog, and they don't work in a cut-and-dry way. (In fact, Matt Pearson doesn't seem to think that there are any triggers at all, if I understood that paper correctly [which I probably didn't].) So, in order to explain what people *mean* when they say "trigger language", I'm going to pretend that they're simple to explain and work in one and only one way. This will give you an idea for howt he real ones work, *but* it will not approximate how any one language *actually* works (except for a visual conlang of mine). In English, the term "focus" doesn't play a big role (or not as big as in, say, Japanese), because it's not overtly marked all the time. So in the sentence, "I went to the store", I don't even know what the focus is (is it the store?). Anyway, though, you can take a sentence and make a focus with emphasis. Here's an example: "Yesterday, my friend and I went to eat at Quizno's." Now, imagine someone asked the following question: "*Who* did you eat with?" One might respond with: "Yesterday, my *friend* and I went to eat at Quizno's." With special emphasis on "friend". Thus, "friend" has been focused. It has special emphasis. And, in fact, I can think of a way to focus every single word in that sentence. The point is, focusing makes one part of the sentence the most important--what the listener should focus on. In trigger language, a morpheme (we'll call it a suffix) marks what the most important part of the sentence is in every single sentence. That suffix is called the trigger. So here's a made-up example: kane-ro-ta mane-lo tasa-ke felu-mi /give-past-AGT. man-TRIG. book-ACC. woman-DAT./ "The *man* gave the book to the woman. In theory (not in practice, as it turns out), you can mix these words up in any order you like, and you'll still get the same meaning. Now, two things about this sentence. First, /-lo/ is the trigger, and marks "man", so "man" is focused. But if it's marked with the trigger, you don't know what the man's doing. That's why there's an "agent" suffix on the verb. You look for the suffix on the verb to know what the word with the trigger suffix is doing in the sentence. So here's that same sentence with a new focus: kane-ro-ke mane-ta tasa-lo felu-mi /give-past-ACC. man-AGT. book-TRIG. woman-DAT./ "The man gave *the book* to the woman. And you can imagine what the other permutation would look like. Another (supposed) feature of trigger languages is that the argument with the trigger suffix is the *only* necessary argument. Here's an example: kane-ro-mi felu-lo /give-past-DAT. woman-TRIG./ "The woman was given (something by someone)." So if you're already talking about giving, and someone wants to know who was the one that was given something, the above is all you'd need to say, whereas in English you'd need to say something like, "It was the woman that someone gave something to". That, in a very small nutshell, is what a pristine trigger language might look like. Again, no real trigger language works exactly like that. A conlang trigger language just might work like this, though. -David Do you know of anyway I could get that put into a larger nutshell? a book or a webpage or something? You have only whetted my thirst for knowledge and my searches on the internet prove futile.


H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>