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revisions in Tepa number marking

From:dirk elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Thursday, August 17, 2000, 17:00
On Wed, 16 Aug 2000, Raymond Brown wrote:

> I haven't learnt any artlang basically for the reasons the Grey Wizard gave > in his email. But if I had to choose one to learn, it would be Tepa.
<BLINK> Why, thank you! I suppose that you might be disappointed to learn that Tepa is undergoing a rather large makeover then ... Actually the size of the remake gets smaller and smaller the more I think about it; the amount of work involved is daunting. It all started when I was looking through old issues of Language and I came across an article by Dick Demers and Eloise Jelinek about Straits Salish. What I thought was really interesting about their analysis was that they maintain that the language has no meaningful distinction between 'noun' and 'verb' on the surface level (there may in fact be lexical items which correspond to 'nouns' and 'verbs' but they are roots and roots never appear without inflection). Now there have been similar claims made for neighboring languages (Nootka, other Salish languages, etc), but I hadn't really paid attention. This was an article that I paid attention to. Basically, roots undergo morphology to create predicates; clitics are attached to predicates to make sentences. Arguments are indicated solely by affixes and clitics (the Pronominal Argument Hypothesis), and referring expressions are completely optional. (Now I'm not a synctactician by training, but this is the kind of thing that almost makes me want to change my mind.) Tepa already has leanings towards a language of this type, so I thought about moving it all the way there. But I'd lose some nifty features by doing so. Something I did need to do in any case was to work out how verbs show number; the system presently in place for nouns was designed for CVCV roots; an example is the word for 'moth' sape '(a) moth' (INDEFINITE) sapee 'the moth' (DEFINITE) saspe 'some moths' (PAUCAL INDEFINITE) sasapee 'the several moths' (PAUCAL DEFINITE) sapespe 'moths' (DISTRIBUTIVE) sapesapee 'every moth' (EVERY) sakpe '(a group of) moths' (COLLECTIVE) sakapee 'all moths' (ALL) This system includes categories which we normally express with quantifiers. This system doesn't work right for the prosodically more complex forms found with verbs, however; this is what I've been trying to fix. I have a tentative solution which slightly alters the prosodic realization of the different number categories. It also involves eliminating PAUCAL as a category, and marking DISTRIBUTIVE with former PAUCAL prosody (paradigms available upon request). By doing this, I've essentially eliminated the need for the number distinctions on nouns. Since the person prefixes also capture the argument structure for any given predicate, the nouns become superfluous in context--hence, a Pronominal Argument language. Here's how it might work. Take a sentence with a plural subject in English: 'The sheep are running around.' In Tepa this becomes: lulpa toko 0- RED- lupa toko 3- DIST- run sheep Notice that the number marking does not mark an entity, but rather an event; here it shows that the event of running is distributed over a number of sheep--the implication is that each sheep is running around independently of her neighbors. In the context of a story, the noun 'sheep' may be entirely dispensed with, leaving only _lulpa_ 'They were running around' or even, 'Running around was going on all over.' The situation becomes a little more complicated with transitive predicates. Suppose you have the following Tepa sentence (my apologies for the violent nature of the example!) wanpopti nema wa- n- RED- poti nema 1>3- TR- DIST- beat man This has three different meanings in English. It could mean: i. I beat up the men. ii. We beat up the man. iii. We beat up the men. Only context can determine which reading is intended since number is not marked on the noun but only on the predicate. (However, the first reading is not as likely since the implication of the English sentence is that the event of beating up happened once to a group of men--that might be better expressed with a collective verb form: _wanpokti_. It may be possible to use the distributive for a series of similar events so a more accurate version of i. would be 'I beat up one man after another.') If this post seems a bit scattered or unorganized then it's an accurate reflection of my state of mind WRT Tepa. Comments? Questions? Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga