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Re: nouns-verbs

From:Tim May <butsuri@...>
Date:Thursday, December 30, 2004, 4:30
# 1 wrote at 2004-12-29 03:55:33 (-0500)
 > I was reading a general linguistic book today and I read something to threw
 > me in a very deep thinking!
 > It was talking about simple different way for languages to represent things
 > like the 6 word orders, the ergativity that kind of stuff
 > But after it continued with similarities between all languages
 > One of them was the fact that all languages divided nouns and verbs in two
 > types of words
 > In every tongue there is a difference between a verb and a noun
 > In ALL dialects we can take a sheet and write nouns on one side and verbs on
 > the other side
 > Is that true? Do you know or have heard of a language where this is not
 > true? Did one of you invent a conlang without that thing?

This isn't such an easy question to answer.  You have to be very
careful about what is meant by "noun" and "verb", and whether you're
talking about a distinction between roots in the lexicon, between
morphologically composed forms, or between words in the sentence.
What is clear is that there are languages in which the distinction
between noun and verb is not as clear cut, or not as important a part
of the grammar, as in (for example) English.

The Wakashan language Nootka (Nuuchahnulth) has often been given as an
|In Makah and Nuuchahnulth, nominals may function directly as predicate
|heads with no intervening copular element.  They take predicate
|clitics exactly as verbal predicates do: there are no restrictions on
|the predicate clitics they may occur with.  The words in (205)-(206)
|show Makah nouns and property words as heads of class-inclusion
|predicates;  that is, predicates denoting a class of entities the
|subject is asserted to be a member of.  Example (207) shows an
|intransitive verbal predicate for comparison.  The coding of each
|clause type is identical: the mood and pronominal clitics are attached
|directly to the predicate head in all cases (only the masculine
|singular gloss is given for the third person examples for sake of
|          MAKAH
|(205) a.  wikwi'ya'ks      b.  wikwi'ya'wic    c.  wikwi'ya'w
|          wikwi'ya:k^w=s       wikwi'ya:k^w=°ic    wikwi'ya:k^w=°i
|          boy=INDIC.1sg        boy=INDIC.2sg       boy=INDIC.3sg
|          'I am a boy'         'You are a boy'     'He is a boy'
|(206) a.  k^wa?aks         b.  k^wa?awic       c.  k^wa?aw
|          k^wa?ak^w=s          k^wa?ak^w=°ic       k^wa?ak^w=°i
|          small=INDIC.1sg      small=INDIC.2sg     small=INDIC.3sg
|          'I am small'         'You are small'     'He is small'
|(207) a.  babuyaks         b.  babuyawic       c.  babuyaw
|          babuyak^w=s          babuyak^w=°ic       babuyak^w=°i
|          work=INDIC.1sg       work=INDIC.2sg      work=INDIC.3sg
|          'I am working'       'You are working'   'He is working'

It _is_ possible to distinguish verbal and nominal word-classes in
Nuuchahnulth[1], but the distinction is much less grammaticalized than
in languages like English.  (The essential difference, as expressed by
Davidson, is that clauses with verbal predicates must be marked with
the article and/or have an expressed nominal subject in order to
function as referring phrases (i.e. as arguments), whereas for nominal
predicates this is optional.  For more detail, see Davidson's
dissertation above.)

Nikolaus Himmelmann argues that Tagalog content words are not
subcategorised with respect to terminal syntactic categories, which
means no distinction between noun and verb as we normally think of it:

David Gil argues for an even more radical lack of categorization in
Riau Indonesian:

These interpretations are somewhat controversial, though, particularly

[1] That seems to be the prevailing view, anyway.  The matter is
    perhaps still open to debate.