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Re: Isolating natlangs?

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Friday, January 14, 2005, 18:04
On Thursday, January 13, 2005, at 06:50 , H. S. Teoh wrote:

> On Thu, Jan 13, 2005 at 06:12:09PM +0000, Ray Brown wrote: > [...] >> No, not Mandarin (or AFAIK any other variety of spoken Chinese). Like >> modern English, it is largely isolating but does have some bound >> grammatical morphemes (affixes) like, for example, the verbal aspect >> morphemes -le and -zhe, and several others. Indeed, it has been argued on >> this list that modern English is more isolating than Mandarin (but not an >> argument I think worth pursuing). > > I seem to remember seeing that argument before some time ago.
It was - and I am fairly certain it has happened more than once.
> I think > the perception that Chinese is purely isolating may be due to the (not > so accurate) impression that every syllable corresponds with a > different "word" (which is not really true, but is a commonly promoted > ideal/misconception).
Yep - an urban myth derived from faulty occidental understanding of the script - but it is a long-standing myth dating back to the 17th cent at least. In fact, as we have seen in recent mails, not even every syllable correspons to a morpheme, tho most do. But if you start treating every morpheme, whether free or bound, as separate "words", then the world will have a plethora of 'isolating' languages!
> [...] >> The trouble is that natlangs have this horrible tendency of not fitting >> neatly into the three-way topologies of te 19th century theorists ;) > [...] > > Which is why I've no qualms about making such bizarre yet naturalistic > (to me it is!) things as the Ebisédian case system... ;-)
Quite right too :) How often have I read someone telling us that such-and-such a feature is not a good idea as it would not happen in a natlang, only for someone to give us a natlang example of the feature! Ray ======================================================= ======================================================= "If /ni/ can change into /A/, then practically anything can change into anything" Yuen Ren Chao, 'Language and Symbolic Systems"