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Q's about trigger again

From:Roger Mills <romilly@...>
Date:Thursday, December 11, 2003, 3:34
Carsten Becker wrote:
>I've got a question again, this time about triggers (because that's still
*really* difficult stuff for me) I agree, the system is very odd and a little counter-intuitive from our western POV-although Eur. languages can do all the same things, but with different means-active/passive, word order, intonation, cleft sentences. It's a matter of what's being focused on in the discourse.
>Assuming English would be such a language, and you'd have the following
>Focus/Trigger: -bla
Agent: -uu Patient: -aa Instrument: -ii Just for fun, let's add Locative: -oo
>If I understood you right, in the sentence "I write an essay with my pen."
would be
>I = the one who acts (agent)
write = verb, transitive though an_essay = the one who is affected (patient) my_pen = the thing the action is done with (instrument)
>I'm not sure, but perhaps you'd then have sentences like these:
Ibla  writeuu an_essay    my_pen.     (*I* do it) I     writeuu an_essaybla my_pen.     (I write an *essay*) I     writeuu an_essay    my_penbla. (I do it with *my pen*) (I add: I writeuu an_essay my-pen in-the-kitchenbla 'I wrote an essay with my pen *in the kitchen*') I think you're ignoring your own invented morphology above; you've got -uu 'agent' on every verb.. I think these ought to be: 1. Ibla writeuu an-essay my-pen (agent focus) 2. I write-aa an-essaybla my-pen (patient focus) 3. I write-ii an-essay my-penbla (inst. focus) 4. I write-oo an-essay my-pen kitchenbla (loc. Focus) Tagalog is a fairly strict VSO language, so schematically, its order would be- 1. write-uu Ibla essay pen 2. write-aa essaybla pen I (unsure about order of pen and I) 3. write-ii penbla essay pen I (" " " " ) 4. write-oo kitchenbla essay pen I (" " " ) (IIRC the Tag. forms would be (sulat 'write') 1. s/um/ulat 2. s/in/ulat 3. i/sulat 4. I forget, maybe sulat/an #1 and 2 correspond fairly easily with active/passive. The only way to express #3, 4 in Engl. would be with a paraphrase of some sort-"this is the pen I wrote the essay with" , "the kitchen is where I wrote the essay". (Some analyses of Tagalog call 3 and 4 the "instrumental passive" and "locative passive" but that's misleading and not current usage. We have to look at the whole discourse. In no European language I know of would you start a conversation with "A book was bought by me yesterday". Consider the following little discourse: "Yesterday I bought a book. John Smith wrote the book. JS wrote the book with a word-processor. I bought the book at Borders" (It's not even good English style, is it? Better, we'd say: "Yesterday I bought a book. It was written by John Smith. He used a w.p. to write it. I bought it at Borders." In our hypothetical language, and I'm fairly sure, in Tagalog, each verb should show a different trigger/focus: Yesterday Ibla bought-uu a book. [Now book is the focus/topic] JS wrote-aa bookbla. [now wp. is new info/focus] JS/he wrote-ii book wpbla. [now the bookstore is new info/focus] I bought-oo book/it Bordersbla.
>But I thought the essay would be the pacient and the pen the instrument -
where is that shown? Umm, they are, if you get the morphology right ........;-((
>Or is there no need to be shown? That would lead to
ambiguities, wouldn't it? _Something_ has to be shown; probably with strict word order; for instance, use only the verb suffixes but require that the subject/focus must either immediately precede or follow the verb; converserly, require -bla on the subj/focus and leave the verb unmarked. I suspect just relying on word order might indeed lead to ambiguities. Play around with it!!
>How are sentences done where there are more than one verb
That I don't know. I suspect both verbs would have to have the same focus, but am not at all sure. Or you might have to use a separate sentence.
>or using "normal" categories, where there is more than one object-like thing?
You mean like an indirect object with "give"? Tagalog IIRC uses a couple "oblique" markers to indicate the subsidiary roles in a sentence; generally I think context or semantics also keep things clear. After all, in "I gave Mary a fish" it's clear that Mary is the "oblique" recipient, not the thing given. With verbs that take 2 animate arguments you do need either case-marking, strict word-order or intonation, active/passive-or a trigger system-to make clear who's doing what to whom. Try to get hold of a good Tagalog or Bisayan grammar-the Tag. ref.grammar by Schacter & Otanes, or even Leonard Bloomfield's old (early 20C) study; Bisayan-John Wolff. Also, I gave some exs. from a related language last summer-search in the listserv's Conlang archive for "Tsou" (Sorry, I'm offline and can't give the exact msg. #s.) I too think it's a little off-the-point to try to fit trigger languages into the ergative mold. The system is just completely different. Still, it's interesting that, assuming as we do that Proto-Austronesian used something like a trigger system, a few distant descendants are said to have developed into ergative languages (Malegasy and some Polynesian lgs, we're told.) But then, so has good old IE Hindi. (If the format of this msg. is screwy-and I do hope not-- , that's because I composed it in MSWord.)