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Question: Referent marking

From:Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
Date:Friday, April 20, 2001, 1:03

I'd like to know whether there are languages (con- or natlangs) that
have structures as the one I'm planning for Tyl-Sjok.  It is a bit
complicated to explain, so examples are best.

Let's begin with a simple sentence:
    `The father has a child.'

This translates into Tyl-Sjok as:
    father child.
    *`The father childs.'

The ancestor is always in control, so the father comes first (Tyl-Sjok
is isolating, controller first).

The English sentence expresses basically the same as the following
English sentence:
    `The child has a father.'

The difference may be regarded as topic change.  Because Tyl-Sjok
works by control only, you cannot, as in English, swap the arguments.
This sentence translates to the very same sentence:
    father child.

Of course, there the problems start.

In Tyl-Sjok, the phrases `the child's father' and `the father's child'
are basically the same phrase, namely expressing the relation of
ancestry between father and child.  They are the same as the above
because Tyl-Sjok simply embeds the whole sentence.  But of course, one
of the two participants of the relation will probably be referred to
in a matrix clause.  It should be clear who...

Now, this is obviously a problem.  Take the sentences:
    `The child's father is tall.'
    `The father's child is tall.'

The basic structure of both sentences is the following in Tyl-Sjok:
    tall [father child].

[] denotes the embedded clause from above.

Which language does it in the same way?  Maybe the same structure for
expressing a member-of-a-group relation, regardless of whether the
group is referred to or the member?

Anyway, to disambiguate, a reference marker marks the dependent of
`tall' in Tyl-Sjok:

    tall [REF father child].
    *`The father, who childs, is tall.'
    `The child's father is tall.'

    tall [father REF child].
    *`The child, who is fathered, is tall.'
    `The father's child is tall.'

I'd like to know whether there are languages that do it in the same or
in a similar way.  I.e., languages that have (almost) atomic embedding
that does not allow structure changes if the matrix clause refers to
parts of embedded clauses.

Please note that the REF particle is not a genitive marker.  It does
not modify the phrase `father child' (at least, not much), but only
marks which of the two is referred to by `tall'.  You might think of
it as a topic marker.