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Re: I have an opinion! (Changing the subject)

From:Marcus Smith <smithma@...>
Date:Wednesday, April 4, 2001, 4:44
Padraic wrote:

>On Mon, 2 Apr 2001, David Peterson wrote: > > >My cognitive science > >professor, the other day, mentioned that verbs code things such as tense, > >aspect, person, number, mood, gender et cetera. But they don't code things > >such as the color of clothes the speaker wears, whether or not that person > >ate breakfast that morning, how old that person, and other "odd" things like > >that. Hence, my question: Does anyone have any odd codings for verbs in > >their language? I, personally, have really wanted to make a language in > >which you have different endings for different colors of shirts the speaker > >wears, or no shirt at all (so, just by means of a verb, a female speaker co > >uld make VERY interesting claims). So, that's my (hopefully) non-insulting > >question. > >Curious segue. Anyway, your cogsci prof can look into verbal systems >of other languages. English isn't a monolith - there are plenty of >"odd things like that" that _are_ coded in verbs of other languages. >Perhaps not colour or choice of breakfast items, but certainly >things that English verbs don't code for. And your prof can also be >educated in that the majority of people in the world probably think >that the things English verbs do code _are_ "odd things like that"!
I think David's prof is on the right track as a language universal (but I'd be happy to see counter-examples). Verbal inflections can indeed encode many things not found in English, but such transient things like clothing or meal-choice are not among them, AFAIK. I'd be willing to bet a substantial amount of chocolate that this kind of thing will never be represented on the verb. I think verbs will only encode facts about its arguments that are inherent to that entity. Even that is probably too free. We normally expect to see inflection for person and number; gender is not uncommon; tribal affiliation is attested in Australian languages (that's firsthand hearsay from a friend who has worked and published on Australian languages); and levels of respect are probably also found. I would not, however, expect inflection based on hair color or dialect, or anything that can change from day to day. Marcus Smith "Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatsoever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." -- Thomas Huxley