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Re: Tagalog & trigger idea: I'd like comments. :)

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 19:21

When I saw the subject line of this thread, I was hoping for enlightenment.
  Maybe someone has posted something which clearly explains this and it is
waiting to be downloaded. But so far, I remain confused.

First of all, let me see if I am clear about the general meaning of

David Crystal does not mention 'trigger' in his "A Dictionary of
Linguistics and Phonetics"; but Larry Trask does give a definition in his
"A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics", namely:
"Any element in a sentence which makes some requirement elsewhere in the
sentence. For example, a subject NP which requires agreement in the verb
is said to 'trigger' agreement in the verb, or to act as an agreement
'trigger', the verb being the agreement 'target'. Similarly, a verb or a
preposition in a case-marking language may trigger a particular case form
on the object NP."

Now that I do understand. Indeed, I have quite often used the verb 'to
trigger' this way without any thought of its being jargon or a special
term - it is just 'natural' English as far as I am concerned. I would not
normally bother to use the nouns 'trigger' and 'target', but I see nothing
unusual here and can well believe that in certain contexts it might be
clearer to use the nouns.

In the sentence "I am a hobbit", _I_ triggers the verb form _am_, whereas
in "He is an orc" _he_ triggers the form _is_. In both sentences the verb
"to be" is the target. In the first sentence _I_ is the trigger & in the
second sentence _he_ is the trigger.

OK - we saw in a recent thread that the initial consonant mutations in the
modern Celticlangs were once phonologically conditioned ('triggered'), but
through both phonetic decay and analogy, have become _grammaticalized_ in
the modern languages.
So if we take 'pen' (head) as the _target_:
- in "fy mhen" (my head) - _fy_ (my) is the trigger that triggers nasal
mutation, causing the target to become _mhen_;
- in "ei phen" (her head) - _ei_ (her) is the trigger that triggers
spirant mutation, causing the target to become _phen_;
- in "ei ben" (his head) - _ei_ (his) is the trigger that triggers soft
mutation, causing the target to become _ben_'
- in "eich pen" (your head) - _eich_ (your) triggers no mutation.

Hopefully, all this makes sense. Basically I have been "thinking aloud" to
clarify in my own mind what 'trigger' means (as defined by Trask).

The other problem in the current thread that I have read so far seems to
be the common confusion between 'focus' and 'topic', which is not helpful.
  So let us see.

On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, at 03:01 , B. Garcia wrote:
> In reference to Philippine languages all a trigger is is an affix on > the verb that indicated what part of the sentence is *emphasized*
Right - in English we use emphasis either to mark the focus, or to mark a contrast with some other element. So: 1. Do I assume that what is being marked is indeed the focus? 2. Is then the target the emphasized element? 3. As not all sentences have focus, do 'non-focused' sentences have a trigger affixed to the verb? If so, why?
> be it the one who does the action, who receives it, who it's done for, > where, what was used to do it. The noun that the verb refers to is > marked with an affix.
OK - so the affix on the verb is the trigger and the NP is the target. The verbal affix triggers an affix on the NP? Is there no way of emphasizing any thing else than a NP? I can understand something like this happening if there is fixed word order and there is no other means of emphasis (for whatever reason). But I had understood that fronting was a feature of the Philippine languages. I may, of course, be mistaken; but if I am not, how does this triggering relate to fronting, if at all? ============================================================ On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, at 04:08 , Sally Caves wrote: [snip]
> Can you give an example of the various triggers in a Philippine language? > Or > even just a made-up one?
> I've been trying to understand triggers for years, > but have only seen people describe them in this abstract way.
Me also - at least as far those darn 'Philippine/Austronesian triggers' concerned.
> For instance, in your above statement you remark that the affix is on the > verb. And then in the next sentence you say it's on the noun. Are there > two affixes?
Yep, that's certainly what I understood - but, like Sally, I am not 100% sure.
> Please show me and Rodlox with an example.
Sally, Rodlox and me :) ==================================================== On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, at 07:10 , H. S. Teoh wrote: [snip]
> Now, given the verb ("to give"), and the 3 NPs filling its 3 semantic > roles, there are several different ways of realizing it as a sentence > in Tatari Faran. Here is where the "triggeriness" comes in: as long as > we keep to the same verb and the same set of NPs, the *factual > content* of the utterance does not change. However, the *emphasis* may > change.
I fail to see how this is "triggeriness". Changing emphasis does not require triggers (tho it may be effected with the aid of triggers, I guess) .
> In Tatari Faran, one of the NPs in a given utterance is made > the "subject" (i.e. trigger, in the Tagalog sense), or the center of > attention, one might say.
Emphasis suggests 'focus', but both "subject" and "center of attention" suggest 'topic' - which ain't the same thing.
> This NP will always be the first NP to > appear in the sentence.
The focus, if any, appears first in Welsh - but it does not use any trigger.
> In the indicative mood, this NP precedes the > verb, whereas the other NPs follow the verb. For example: > > kiran ka kira firasa sei diru nei esan. > young_man ORG give flower CVY young_lady RCP COMPL > "The young man gives (a flower/flowers) to the young lady." > > (_esan_ is the verb complement, which is not relevant to our present > discussion.)
In English the sentence has no focus and "the young man" is the topic. In Welsh the sentence is: Mae'r dyn ifanc yn rhoi blodau i'r ferch ifanc. Is the man young YN giving flowers to the lady young. [YN is a particle marking the predicate]
> In this particular sentence, "young man" is made the "subject", the > center of attention. Hence, another way to translate this might be: > "It is the young man who gives flowers to the young lady."
Now the "young man" is no longer the topic; he has become the _focus_. In welsh this is: Yr dyn ifanc sy'n rhoi blodau i'r ferch ifanc.
> > This happens to be in the familiar English word order. But let's now > consider other possibilities. We may, for example, wish to emphasize > that it is to the young lady that the flowers were given. We do this > by simply fronting "young lady", and relegating "young man" to the > back of the sentence: > > diru nei kira firasa sei kiran ka esan. > young_lady RCP give flower CVY young_man ORG COMPL > "The young lady was given flowers by the young man."
No, no. In the English _passive_ the "young lady" is the topic. If we wish to emphasize that it is the young lady who got the flowers we: - either simply emphasize the young lady: "The young man gives flowers *to the young lady*" [Usual method] - or we may front the young lady, thus: "It was to the young lady (that) the young man gives flowers". In Welsh this is: I'r ferch ifanc mae'r dyn ifanc yn rhoi blodau.
> (Note that although the English translation resorts to the passive > voice, the Tatari Faran retains the same verb, and merely changes the > word order. In fact, it has no concept of active/passive; they are one > and the same.
Yes, and it appears that Tatari Faran has no concept of topic/focus - treating them both the same way, which is a tad confusing IMO. [snip]
> We could also decide to emphasize the fact that it was *flowers* which > were given to the young lady by the young man, in which case we would > front "flowers" and leave the young man and young lady in the back: > > firasa sei kira kiran ka diru nei esan. > flower CVY give young_man ORG young_lady RCP COMPL > "Flowers were given by the young man to the young lady."
Presumably the Tatari Faran example corresponds _both_ to: Blodau mae'r dyn ifanc yn rhoi i'r ferch ifanc = The young man gives the young lady *flowers*/ It's flowers the young man is giving (to) the young lady ['flowers' is the focus] .._and_ to: Mae blodau cael eu rhoi i'r ferch ifanc gan y dyn ifanc = Flowers are being given to the young lady by the young man ['flowers' is the topic]. [snip]
> How is this related to triggers?
Yes, how indeed? In the above Tatari Faran sentences what is the trigger and what is the target?
> In comparison, an accusative language treats the roles quite > differently: to make an object the subject, one has to change the verb > into a passive one and make the previous subject a prepositional > phrase;
Not at all! Welsh fronts the direct object if it wishes to make that object the focus; German fronts the direct object if it wants to make that the topic. Neither language need resort to the passive. Yet both are what are classed as "accusative languages"
> to make an indirect object the subject, one has to put both > the original subject and object in prepositional phrases in addition > to switching to the passive voice. To make a locative NP the subject, > another, different mechanism would be employed.
Once again - not so.
> Based on this, I would propose that Tatari Faran, indeed, does exhibit > triggeriness.
It exhibits _fronting_ - whether for focus or topicalization is not clear. But I see no "triggeriness". ================================================= On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, at 09:44 , Henrik Theiling wrote: [snip]
> Hmm, I would not say this is triggerish, but I'd say the language uses > word order to mark the focus, just like German.
Eh? I had always understood that German fronted the _topic_, not the focus. In "The Structure of German", Anthony Fox gives these examples (the bracketed translations & comments are mine): Was hat sie ihm zum Geburtstag geschenkt? (What has she given him for his birthday?) Zum Geburtstag hat sie ihm ein Buch geschenkt. (For his birthday she gave him a book.) [In the answer, "Zum Geburtstag" is the topic; the focus is "ein Buch". According to my understanding, if "ein Buch" is to be emphasized, it not fronted (as it would be in Welsh), it is simply emphasized just as it would be in English, i.e. Zum Geburtstag hat sie ihm EIN BUCH geschenkt.] Wird sie ihm zu Weihnachten ein Buch schenken? (Will she give him a book for Christmas?) Nein. Ein Buch hat sie ihm zum Geburtstag geschenkt. (No. She gave him a book for his birthday). [In the answer "Ein Buch" is the topic; the focus is "zum Geburtstag". If the focus is to be emphasized, my understanding is that the sentence stays in the same order thus: Nein! Ein Buch hat sie ihm ZUM GEBURTSTAG geschenkt.] Now is Fox mistaken? Could some one answer the question "Was hat sie ihm zum Geburtstag geschenkt?" with "Ein Buch hat sie ihm zum Geburtstag geschenkt."? [snip]
> I think that's the point. The system I see is focus by word order, > not triggers.
The system is either focus by word order (a la Welsh) or topic by order (a la German) but, I agree, it has nothing to do with triggers.
> Triggers as I understand them involve changing the verb > form to indicate which role is the trigger, and then requiring the > trigger case for that role.
So the role is the trigger and the verb is the target? The NP which is marked - whether for topic or for focus - triggers a particular verb form. That makes sense. But it is the exact opposite of Barry's explanation above!
> (The other roles may keep their case > marking or be changed as well, depending on language). > > This is similar to voices, but also different, since usually triggers > mark *roles* instead of purely syntactically changing case assignment, > and they usually do not demote anything to obliqueness. Marking roles > is the reason why trigger languages often have more choices for > triggers that for cases (Tagalog, if I remember correctly, has five > (or only four?) choices for triggers on the verb, but only three > cases).
This is interesting - and I can see sense in what Henrik is writing here. But actual examples would help a lot.
> At least, this is my understanding. Triggers have created so much > confusion here
They have indeed!!! [snip]
>> Based on this, I would propose that Tatari Faran, indeed, does exhibit >> triggeriness. > ... > > Hmm, I don't think so, since the system is really identical to that of > German, which is clearly accusative and never even has anyone I met > considered that it had triggers. :-)
Basically, I agree with Henrik here (unless it's closer to the Welsh than the German system :)) ==================================================== Whether Tatari Faran is an "accusative language" or not, is another matter. At present, it these darned "Tagalog triggers" that I am interested in. I do have "Lessons in Basic Tagalog for Foreigners and Non-Tagalogs" dating from the 1950/60 period - but it does not mention 'triggers'! I suppose I could work my way through the book and try to figure out just what these darn things are about. But it would be nice to have it explained clearly, simply and unambiguously with examples. Ray, still confused by these Philippino triggers =============================================== =============================================== Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight, which is not so much a twilight of the gods as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]


Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Chris Bates <chris.maths_student@...>
Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
B. Garcia <madyaas@...>