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Q's abuot trigger again

From:Carsten Becker <post@...>
Date:Tuesday, December 9, 2003, 13:40

I've got a question again, this time about triggers (because that's still
*really* difficult stuff for me)

On Fri, 17 Jan 2003, 15:20:47 MEZ Christophe Grandsire wrote:
"Now, there are languages that take the "topic-comment" structure to its
extreme, so that even grammatically the "only" way to construct sentences is
to use a "topic-comment" structuer. Those are called "trigger" or "focus"
languages. In those languages, it makes no sense anymore to talk about S, A
or P. In those languages, it's a bit as if all the verbs were intransitive,
as they only ever have one mandatory participant. This participant is called
the trigger or T (or the focus). It is marked as being the trigger, and
that's all. You don't mark it for its function in the sentence. Instead, the
*verb* itself is marked for the function of the trigger! So, if the trigger
is the agent of the action, the verb will receive a mark indicating "agent".
If it's the patient, it will receive a mark "patient". If it's the location
of the action, the verb will receive a mark indicating "location", etc... As
for the other participants, they are *all* optional, and all marked
"equally" for their function (agent, patient, location, time, goal, etc...
are not treated differently from others as soon as tehy are *not* the
trigger). Only the trigger has a special status here (unlike in all the
other kinds of languages I talked you about until, where for transitive
verbs alwayss two participants have a special status). As you see, you
cannot construct a sentence in this kind of language without choosing first
what is the topic of the sentence, which will become the trigger (just like
in English you cannot make a sentence without first choosing the subject).
Trigger languages seem to be found exclusively among Austronesian languages,
and Tagalog is usually the main example given."

Tu te souviens de cet email, Christophe? J'ai cherché dans les
archives ...

Because I wrote this using DOS Edit, I had to write off everything from the
printed out email. Phew! BTW, is it "le" or "la" email? I guess it's "le".

Assuming English would be such a language, and you'd have the following

Focus/Trigger: -bla
Agent: -uu
Patient: -aa
Instrument: -ii

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*)

But I thought the essay would be the pacient and the pen the instrument -
where is that shown? Or is there no need to be shown? That would lead to
ambiguities, wouldn't it? Are there other combinations possible, too?  There
should be, depending on where which word you focus.
How are sentences done where there are more than one verb or using "normal"
categories, where there is more than one object-like thing? As Sarah Marie
Parker-Allen was the newbie when she asked for this topic about a year ago,
now I am the newbie - I already asked for an explanation about
(in)transitives (and I understood it), but being only familar with
accusative languages I don't get that bit about ergativity in which respect
ever into my head. (in English, it has to do with -ee, and if the object is
the object of a transitive or intransitive verb - that's what I kept in
mind.) Perhaps I'm still a bit too young to understand things like this... I
don't hope so. And how the discussion went on then, I did not understand
anything. Perhaps I'll ask another time for that. Not now.




Amanda Babcock <ababcock@...>