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Making Lots of Money (no spam!)

From:Christian Thalmann <cinga@...>
Date:Sunday, June 30, 2002, 22:02
While the sentence "he wants to make a lot of money" in the recent
grammar exercise, I came upon a quirk of Obrenje syntax which I
initially deemed too rebellious to be allowed, but eventually came to
regard as a quite naturalistic feature that would dominate spoken
Obrenje whether I liked it or not.  =P

It reminds me a lot of the colloquial tendency to shamelessly split
infinitives.  ;-)

     Could anyone with a good grasp of syntax (unlike myself)
     check this feature out and tell me whether it makes
     sense or not?

The story reads like a thriller... though it's the kind of thriller
that gets trashed by the spec script reader after the first five
pages.  ;-)

Notation: V verb, N nominative, P predicative, O objective.

1) This is the regular syntax for a verb with two objects:

|Pow torav u tiran i fele.|
 V   N       P       O
"Gives the man PRE a rose OBJ the woman."

The predicative phrase need not be marked by |u| if it preceeds the

|Tiran pow torav i fele.|
 P     V   N       O
"A rose gives the man OBJ the woman."

This rule is equally valid for verbs with only take a predicative
phrase, and no objective phrase.

2) A modal verb is basically a verb that takes a gerund as a
predicative object.  So the usual sentence structure for our sentence
"He wants to make a lot of money" would be

|Kwoe u lormae i punce puqe|
 VS     P        O
"Wants-he PRE (earning OBJ much money)".

This is not the two-object syntax mentioned in 1), since the objective
phrase |i punce puqe| does not belong to the finite verb |kwoe|, but
to the gerund |lormae|.

3) Since the Obrenaj are lazy when it comes to syllables, they
like to make use of the fact that the predicative case marker |u|
can be dropped when the predicative object is placed before the
verb.  Thus one might expect:

|Lormae i punce puqe kwoe|
 P        O          VS
"(Earning OBJ much money) wants-he".

4) However, since unmarked word order is VSO in Obrenje, putting the
verb at the end of the sentence after a very long object phrase feels
somewhat weird.  Therefore, the object of the main verb is placed
*after* the modal verb:

|Lormae kwoe i punce puqe|
 P      VS     O
"Earning wants-he OBJ much money"

Himmel!  Now it looks just like the two-object construction in 1),
the gerund |lormae| is now physically parted from its object |i punce
puqe|, making it seem as though the latter were an object of the
finite verb |kwoe|!  Horror!  Chaos!  The End of the World!

Luckily, modal verbs such as |kwo-| "want" usually don't have an
objective object, so there is not much confusion here.  Right?

5) But what the main verb were |ram-| "receive", which takes a
predicative object?

|Rama kwoe u punce puqe|
 P    VS     P
"Receiving wants-he PRE much money"

Now there are two predicative phrases floating around in the sentence!
How do we know how to assign them to the verbs?

Well, |rama|, being a gerund, is the logical choice for the object of
the modal verb |kwoe| "wants", so |u punce puqe| must be the
predicative object of the gerund |rama|, not of the finite verb
|kwoe|.  No ambiguitiy here, despite the splitting.

6) Phew!  But what if the gerund's object were a gerund itself?

|Rama kwoe u vuzzae|
 P    VS     P
"He wants to receive a beating"  or  "He wants to beat a receiving"

I guess we'll finally have to resort to the Linguist's Final Solution
to Every Ambiguity: Context!   ;-)

Bottom Line:  Do you guys think that this peculiar sentence structure
is plausible?  "Earning wants-he a lot of money" rather than "Wants-he
earning a lot of money"?  To me, it sounds just like the kind of
syntactical freaks that natural languages develop for the dedicated
purpose of driving language students crazy.

Thanx for reading so far.  =P

-- Christian Thalmann


Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>