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Unresolved problems in Lyanjen morphosyntactic nomenclature

From:Matt M. <matt_mcl@...>
Date:Thursday, June 28, 2001, 16:48
or, How pretentious a title can Matt come up with for his email?

Here are some problems I've discussed on-list before (largely last autumn);
I'd like to see if we can come up with any fresh insight on them. Please
bear in mind that I'm only a second-year Lx major and my morphosyntax is
entirely self-taught.

PROBLEM ONE: Noun cases. Lyanjen has three non-oblique cases. The first one
is used for the subject of intransitive clauses:

Trilya iks malper.
trilya -0      iks   malp       -er
sky   Subj  not  be:purple 3pSgPrInd
"The sky isn't purple."

Bóbal           crots.
bóbal  -0      crots     -0
bobal Subj   hunger   3pSgPrSim
"The bobal hungers."  (A bobal is a kind of ruminant.)

The second one is used to mark agents, such as the agent of a transitive
verb, whether or not there's a patient. The third one is used to mark
patients, whether or not there's an agent.

Ðoc'turibar zau'splaï itadzactan.
ðoc'turib     -ar      zau'spla   -i                  itadzact   -an
archbishop Agt     insult        3pSgPsSim  MP         Pat
"The archbishop insulted the member of parliament."

Ðoc'turiban tanati.
ðoc'turib      -an   tanat    -i
archbishop   Pat   kill       3pSgPsSim
"The archbishop was killed."
(Compare to "Ðoc'turibar tanati" (the archbishop killed) and "Ðoc'turib
tanati" (the archbishop died)).

So. In Chapter 7 of _Describing Morphosyntax_, Payne describes a three-way
division of noun roles between subjects, agents, and patients. Most
languages either group subjects and agents in the same case (nominative, vs.
accusative) or subjects and patients (absolutive, vs. ergative). None of
these terms work for me since mine are all separate. What do you think of
the case names "subjective", "agentive," and "patientive"?

PROBLEM 2. Verbs in uncomposed moods (participles, infinitives, volitives,
and imperatives) in Lyanjen usually have a prefix indicating the case of the
noun they "replace". This is kinda difficult to describe, so I'll just give
an example:

CASE   FULL SENTENCE                                            INFINITIVE
(for example)
Subj      Ge craii. ("She screamed.")                                 t'crai
("to scream")
Agt       Ger craii oin. ("She screamed something.")           k'crai ("to
scream [something]")
Pat        Riun gos craii. ("His name was screamed.")          r'crai ("to
be screamed")
Gen       Ge craii esulas. ("She screamed from the roof.")  g'crai ("to be
screamed from")
Loc       Ge craii kijat. ("She screamed about war.")         p'crai ("to be
screamed about")
Dat        Ge craii múniem. ("She screamed at the queen.") m'crai ("to be
screamed at")

(Each case can of course have several meanings; I've chosen the use that
makes the most sense for this verb. The nouns with the cases mentioned are,
respectively, "ge (she)", "ger (she)", "riun (name)", "esulas (roof)",
"kijat (war)", "múniem (queen)". )

Then, of course, you can use each of these infinitives slightly differently
in sentences:

T'crai ipritar. ("Screaming is annoying.")
K'crair enbin sas spoler r'aprenan gan. ("To scream one's message guarantees
its receipt.")
R'crair kopriker striman. ("To be screamed ruins a song." (A song is ruined
if it is screamed.))
G'craim esulan iks boldirer. ("To be screamed from is not what the roof is
intended for.")
P'crair snaku kijan. ("To be screamed about will stop the war." (The war
will stop if it is screamed about.))
M'crain ger iks cater. ("She does not like to be screamed at.")

I don't know what to call the class of prefixes in question. I've
tentatively settled on "valency", but I don't know if that makes sense.



The Gray Wizard <dbell@...>
Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>