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Greenberg's universals for SVO languages & Caos Pidginruff-sketch

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Saturday, September 9, 2000, 17:49
Marcus Smith wrote:

> Jonathon Change wrote: > > > According to Greenberg's Universals (1963) SVO languages are: > > [snip universals] > > > etc. (in another words, the "universal" tendency of SVO languages - as > >opposed to Mandarin and English - is to be right-branching, right/eh?) > > > > Is there any other "universals" or tendencies I should be aware of? > > Here's a few more. > > -- case is less common, and when present, usually doesn't not follow an > ergative pattern.
Right -- although I believe the figure is about 25% that show some ergativity, whether morphological (like Basque) or syntactic (like Dyirbal).
> -- often have definite articles (OV languages tend not to).
...or more precisely, grammaticalize definiteness. Mam, a language I worked on, for example, assumes that words will be definite, and marks only singular and plural indefinite articles. (Mam is VSO)
> -- demonstratives, numerals, and adjectives follow the noun in that order or > the opposite order (adj, num, dem) > -- often have relative pronouns
Comrie has a whole chapter on this in "Language Universals and Linguistic Typology". Unfortunately, his prose style is so thick (if precise) that I find it hard to remember much of what he says.
> -- conjunctions is of the form "X and X" rather than "and X and X" or "X and X > and", the former is rare, the later is (possibly) unattested.
What about "X and and X" and "and X X and"? Greek has the former: ho anthrôpos te kai he kourê. the man and and the maid This is simply the more emphatic form of "X and X". "te" here is clitic, so that might change things a bit. Greek also has "and X and X". They wouldn't blink at te anthrôpos kai kourê and man and maid This usually comes out in English as "both X and X". (I'm sure Ray can correct me here.)
> -- prefixes are common for tense, case, etc. There are always some suffixes > though.
Always? I would say that has more to do with their being in one of the midpoints between pure analysis (i.e., isolating languages) and pure synthesis (purely agglutinating languages). My friend once joked that he'd hate to have to learn a purely fusional language, where the logical extreme might be something like "po" encapsulates everything written by Gauss or something -- literally all the words.
> -- Subordinate clauses are often finite (e.g., "I want he goes" rather than "I > want him to go").
Hmm. I suppose that's true, but Greek is a counterexample to this again: Atreidêi, nun amme palin plangkhthentas oiô / Atreus.PATRO.DAT now us back wander.AORPASSPART.ACCpl think.1s aps aponosteisein back return.home.INF 'Son of Atreus, I think we shall return back now, having been driven back...' (Homer, Iliad, 1.59-60) Not that Greek is representative of all languages or anything. However, virtually all languages have equi-nounphrase deletion, as with infinitive constructions. There is one area of the world that doesn't: the Balkans, and it's not surprisingly a Sprachbund there. In those languages, you have to say "I want that I go" instead of "I want go" or "I want to go", which are more in keeping with the universal.
> Of course, as somebody pointed out in another message, universals are just > statistics. I know of no absolute universals except things like "All > languages have vowels".
Some have claimed even that's not true. I read once, somewhere, that there's a language in Papua New Guinea that has no phonemic vowels -- although I suspect this to be apocryphal, or a misinterpretation. Supposedly, it had epenthetic phonetic schwa surfacing all over the place, but a phonemic form like "tk" or "ptg" was not a problem. Were I to hear this in a paper being presented, I would be tempted to yell out "Pull the other one!" ====================================== Tom Wier | "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." ======================================