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Re: OT: free word-order conlangs (was: Re: OT: THEORY Fusion Grammar

From:Yahya Abdal-Aziz <yahya@...>
Date:Thursday, July 20, 2006, 1:18
Hi And,

On Sun, 16 Jul 2006, And Rosta wrote:
> > The discussion of Warlpiri prompts me to solicit information > about conlangs in which word-order is in some sense very free but > without ambiguity resulting from the freedom. > > 1. How free is free? Is freedom limited to within some > subsentential domain such as the clause? Within the domain of > freedom are all orders permissible, or just very many/most?
I'd like to address these questions specifically as they relate to natlangs: Australian languages in general, including Warlpiri, Aranda and so on. I think doing so might shed some light on the bounds you seek in your "How free is free?" question. I've pulled out my trusty copy of Colin Yallop's "Australian Aboriginal Languages" (Andre Deutsch, London 1982, ISBN 0 233 97309 5) to this end.
>From "Chapter 5: Aspects of Syntax" on p. 121:
"Word order is generally flexible. There is, for example, usually no rule that the subject must precede the verb or that the verb must precede the object. Hence we may find as equivalents: I saw him I him saw Him I saw, etc. "The morphology of many of the languages is such that subject and object can often be indentified by their form, whatever their position in the sentence. Word order is rarely truly random, however (1). One order is often preferred (commonly subject-object-verb for a transitive sentence) and departures from the preferred pattern may be governed by considerations of emphasis or thematic structure. (Compare, on a much more limited scale, English 'I didn't meet Joan - but John I did meet' or 'Spinach I can't stomach'.) Furthermore, there are instances where word order *is* significant. Especially in the suffixing languages (2), adjectives and demonstratives must generally follow the noun which they qualify, e.g. Aranda _kngulya marra_ 'a good dog', _kngulya nhanha_ 'this dog' (3). But Aranda, like most Australian languages, has no equational verb 'to be' (4); hence 'this is a dog' is _nhanha kngulya_. Thus word order is important in distinguishing among e.g. _kngulya nhanha marra_ 'this dog is good' _nhanha kngulya marra_ 'this is a good dog' _kngulya marra nhanha_ 'this good dog (is ...)' (5) My notes: (1) Nor does Yallop name any language where it is. I doubt it's truly possible ... (2) Which BTW includes the entire Pama-Ngungan family, which covers 70% of the Australian languages and 75% of the speakers, according to Yallop's statistics, op. cit. (3) It occurs to me that the demonstrative adjective _nhanha_ 'this' might be just another suffix, albeit one usually written as a separate word. However, we'd also need to make the same analysis for all adjectives, so that, eg, we'd really have _kngulya-marra-nhanha_, rather than _kngulya marra nhanha_ 'dog good this', ie 'this good dog'. But would that be a problem? (4) As I argued in an earlier post, 'to be' is more commonly attributive than truly "equational". (5) Eg _kngulya marra nhanha pmarala nima_ 'this good dog is staying in camp', glossed as 'dog good this camp-in stay'. I hope you find this information useful. Regards, Yahya -- No virus found in this outgoing message. Checked by AVG Free Edition. Version: 7.1.394 / Virus Database: 268.10.1/391 - Release Date: 18/7/06


And Rosta <and.rosta@...>free word-order conlangs