Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Trigger vs. Topic

From:R A Brown <ray@...>
Date:Monday, September 12, 2005, 7:13
Casavant James wrote:

>Could anyone shed some light on how the concepts of >trigger and topic differ? > > >
Quite a lot, in fact. A trigger is merely an element in a sentence which 'triggers off' some requirement elsewhere in the sentence. For example, the subject pronoun 'I' is the trigger for 'am' as the form of the present tense of 'to be', whereas 'we' is a trigger for 'are' (unlike 'am', 'are' may be triggered by other forms). Topic, unfortunately, is used with two different meanings. Failure to realize this is often the cause for confusion. The two uses are: 1. (Also called _theme_) The element in a sentence which is represented as already existing in the discourse and which the rest of the sentence (the _comment_ or _rheme_) is about. In English and many other languages, the topic is usually the grammatical subject in unmarked ('normal') sentences. 2. In the Philippine languages, 'topic' is often used as a conventional label for the noun phrase which exhibits some, but not all, of the typical properties of 'subject' in other languages. IIRC the 'topic', in this sense, (also called by some the 'subject' and by others the 'focus') comes normally at the end, the verb being the first element. In sense (2) the semantic role of the 'topic' is said by many to trigger a particular verb form. Confusingly, others talk of the verb form itself, triggering the semantic role of the focus/subject/topic, and the verbal affix is not infrequently called a "trigger". Because of differences of usage, the whole thing can get very confusing. This was discussed at some length in Conlang during November 2004 - take a look in the archives. I and many others think the 'trigger' explanation of the syntax of the Philippine & other Austronesian languages is not helpful. It seems to me (and not to me) that what we basically what is traditionally called _voice_, but that these languages have rather more grammatical voices than the two (active ~ passive) or three (active ~ middle ~ passive) we are used to in most other languages. Have a look at: and Happy reading :-) -- Ray ================================== ================================== MAKE POVERTY HISTORY