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Re: Conciseness

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Thursday, June 17, 2004, 1:40
Joe wrote at 2004-06-08 08:03:07 (+0100)
 > Ray Brown wrote:
 > > On Monday, June 7, 2004, at 06:13 , Joe wrote:
 > >
 > >> Yeah, but I was emphasising conciseness.  I've found that a
 > >> simple sentence - verb, subject, and object, can't really be
 > >> expressed with less than three syllables.
 > >
 > >
 > > It certainly can, really & truly; e.g.
 > >
 > > tu l'aimes /tylEm/ two syllables
 > > je l'aime /ZlEm/   one syllable
 > >
 > Yes, but those are pronominal arguments.  I probably should have
 > made myself clearer.

It may be a mistake to think of a prototypical simple monotransitive
sentence as having two full nominal arguments.  (Not that you said
this, but I think we sometimes tend to think along such lines.)

From _The Languages of Native North America_, p.192 (I know you have a
copy, Joe)

 | An interesting restriction on possible simple clause structures can
 | be seen in some languages of the Northwest Coast.  It is now well
 | known that speakers of most languages rarely introduce new
 | participants into discurse as the subject/ergative/agent of a
 | transtive clause.  Though they might seem perfectly grammatical,
 | sentences like _A nice man helped me out_ are surprisingly rare in
 | spontaneous speech.  Speakers more often introduce new entities in
 | presentative constructions, in intransitive clauses, or as
 | objects/absolutives/patiens of transitives: _A nice man came up and
 | offered to help_, or _I met a nice man there and he helped me out_.
 | For this reason ergative arguments (or subjects or agents of
 | transitives) are rarely identified in full noun phrases: they are
 | usually represented by pronouns or my nothing at all.  In an
 | examination of a corpus of spoken Sacalpultec Mayan, for example,
 | Du Bois (1987) discovered that only 2.9 percent of the clauses
 | contained lexical ergatives.  Examinations of corpora from numerous
 | other languages have shown similar percentages.
 | In various Coast Salishan languages, the tendency to avoid lexical
 | ergatives has solidified into a grammatical prohibition against
 | them.  In Lushootseed, for example, a Coast Salishan language of
 | Puget Sound in northwest Washington, ... transitive clauses with
 | pronominal agents are fine.  Transitive clauses with lexical agents
 | are never used, however.  The only way to identify the agent of a
 | verb like "take" with a lexical nominal is to passivize the clause.

Not that this has much bearing on conciseness.