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Re: What would you call this?

From:Doug Dee <amateurlinguist@...>
Date:Saturday, June 21, 2003, 19:32
In a message dated 6/21/2003 2:57:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
trwier@UCHICAGO.EDU writes (quoting me & responding):

>> That is (correct me if I go wrong here), in Algonkian, in a >> sentence with two 3rd person NPs, a direct inflection on the >> verb means "the proximate NP is acting on the obviative NP", >> and an inverse inflection means "the obviative NP is acting >> on the proximate NP." The proposal here is very similar: >> the "direct" inflection (if I may call it that) means "the >> core NP mentioned first is acting on the core NP mentioned >> second" while the "inverse" inflection means "the core NP >> mentioned second is acting on the core NP mentioned first."
>Kinda, except that in Meskwaki, word order is so free that it >not clear whether the more basic word order should be VSO or >VOS. Word order has essentially no role in determining who >did what to whom. I think you need to change "mentioned first" >to "discourse-functionally chosen" (see below).
>> Or, to put it another way, what we're discussing is a direct/ >> inverse system in which the proximate role is always assigned >> to the NP that comes first is the clause.
>No, actually that's not the case. The choice of proximate or >obviative is clearly a function of the discourse, that is, it >is the choice of the speaker simply to divide 3p animate >arguments into two categories for purposes of reference tracking, >not the grammar as such*. (Though it is true that within any clause >with two 3p animate arguments, one has to be proximate and the >other obviative). Once the choice has been made, the choice >may, but need not, be changed but very easily, from one clause to >the next. (Some languages with prox/obv distinctions require the >distinction to be held over a particular stretch of discourse.) >That is to say, the choice of proximate and obviative is autonomous >from, but interacts with, the direct/inverse system.
I failed to make myself clear. I did not mean to claim that "proximate" in the natural languages you were discussing was assigned to the first-mentioned NP. I was aware that it's "discourse-functionally chosen" as you put it. I do not disagree with anything you've said about natural languages, and I believe I understood you adequately. I meant to claim that _in the proposed conlang we're discussing_, the "default" and "non-default" verbal inflections that the conlanger proposed act the same way as direct/inverse would act, except that _in this conlang_ the distinction reflected is "NP mentioned first" vs. "NP mentioned second" as opposed to "marked as proximate" vs. "marked as obviative." (To rephrase the initial post on this proposed conlang: the idea was that in a sentence that had the form "NP1 NP2 Verb", you'd know whether it was "SOV" or "OSV" by the inflection on the verb: "default" in the first instance, "non-default" in the second. What I intended to say was that then "default" seems analogous to "direct", and "non-default" analogous to "inverse", in the sense that these inflections tell you how to map the NPs into subject & object roles.) Hence, my answer to the title question "What would you call this?" is "I'd call it an unusual kind of direct/inverse system." I hope that clears up the confusion I caused. Doug