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

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Saturday, November 20, 2004, 20:51
On Saturday, November 20, 2004, at 12:35 , H. S. Teoh wrote:

We seem largely in agreement.

> --------------- > > And now, for Tim's post, which I found very helpful especially in > bringing out the fact that Tagalog's actor NP appears to have > subject-like properties as well. (I'm replying to both messages 'cos > I'm nearly past my daily posting limit. Sighh...)
Yes, I too found Tim's post helpful, especially in reminding us of Tagalog' s actor. [snip]
>> | Schachter (1976), it is generally agreed that ang-phrases in >> | post-predicate position show many but not all of the presumably >> | universal subject properties proposed by Keenan (1976). Still, as > > IMHO, one should consider revising the set of "universal" subject > properties, since it is possible that when Keenan formulated them, the > languages he had in mind happened to share some subject properties > that Tagalog doesn't have.
I agree. I am always doubtful about "universals" in linguistics. Indeed, if linguistics is a science - and I believe we should treat it thus - we must expect tht categories will need revision in the light of new discoveries. We should even expect that a given category may prove to be not a simple category at all. We should expect hypotheses to be tested snd modified if necessary or even abandoned in favor of a more coherent hypothesis.
> My view is that if the prospective Tagalog > "subject" satisfies a sufficient number of these properties, perhaps > it *should* be called a subject.
I shall call it subject for the moment :)
> [...] >> | while other subject diagnostics are inapplicable or inconclusive. The >> | major point of contention pertains to the so-called agent-related >> | properties of subjects, in particular the properties of serving as the >> | antecedent in reflexive constructions, the target in Equi-NP deletions >> | and the addressee in imperatives. > > Now, these "agent-related properties" I consider to be somewhat on > shaky ground. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the idea of "agent" seems > to me to be a semantic concept, whereas "subject" merely plays a > syntactical role.
No, you are not wrong. "agent" in its conventional use is a semantic role while subject is a grammatical relation. It is important IMO to distinguish semantic roles from grammatical relations. One must also bear in mind that Agent (with IIRC uppercase initial A) is one of the 'deep cases' recognized in Case grammar and one of _theta-roles_ recognized in Government-Binding theory. One must be careful not to confuse these different uses.
> The fact that the two happen to coincide in the > majority of the languages that we (or the linguists) are familiar with > doesn't necessarily mean that we should conflate the two.
I agree.
> [...] >> | for grammatical relations. Artawa & Blake (1997:505f), among others, >> | profess serious doubts in this regard and argue for the viability of >> | the subject notion in Balinese, a language for which the basic facts >> | relevant to this issue are quite similar to the Tagalog ones. Here I >> | adopt the position that there are subjects in Tagalog, with the >> | proviso that the subject in Tagalog differs in some regards from >> | subjects in other languages such as English. > > I agree that one should accept that Tagalog subjects should behave > slightly differently from English subjects. > > > [...] >> Manning[4] on these supposed difficulties with identifying a subject >> in Tagalog: >> >> | Schachter (1977) points out that Tagalog has a split in apparent >> | `subject properties' (in roughly the sense of Keenan (1976)) >> | between those borne by the ang-marked NP and those borne by what he >> | calls the Actor - the A or S NP. See (9). >> | >> | (9) Ang-marked NP Actor >> | Obligatory element of every clause Reflexive binding >> | Launches floating quantifiers Equi target >> | Relativization Imperative addressee > > Now, this is very interesting. I did not know this before. So the > actor NP in Tagalog is more distinguished than the other NPs beside > the prospective "subject" (i.e. the ang-marked NP). What does "equi > target" mean? > > I consider that the actor NP binding reflexives and serving as the > addressee of imperatives is a result of the semantics of the actor > role, rather than pertaining to the syntactic function of subjects. > Intuitively, it makes sense for reflexives to bind to the actor - if > the subject were a locative, for example, it would be of little use > for reflexives to bind to it. It would be much more useful in the > usual case to have reflexives refer to the actor, which I presume > would take on the agentive role. Ditto for imperatives.
This is all very interesting - Teoh's observations make good sense to me. [snip]
>> | However, he is careful to point out that these Philippinist >> | conceptions of Topic and Actor are somewhat at variance with normal >> | usage (the Topic can be what would normally be called a focus, for >> | example,
...and this IMO has been the source of some of the confusion surround discussing of the so-called 'trigger system'. IMO it simply is not helpful to do things like calling what would normally be considered 'focus' as Topic.
>> and the Actor can have various thematic roles in the context >> | of Tagalog verbs meaning roughly `receive' and `endure').
So not always agent role, then? [snip]
> I think it becomes obvious if we refine our definition of 'subject' to > cover only syntactic functions, and not conflate it with semantic > considerations.
I agree - w must be careful not to conflate semantic roles & grammatical relations. [snip]
> As for the other camp: if we are going to invent new terminology, we > should at least not overload existing terminology in incompatible and > contradictory ways, such as the use of "topic" or "focus" for a > syntactic construct, when the terms refer to the semantic domain when > applied to SAE languages. This has only caused unnecessary confusion, > as Ray can testify. :-)
..and of course it *not* inventing new terminology. It is using existing terminology in a new way! It is confusing. If it is going to be new terminology, then let it be _new_ terminology.
> > My personal stance after going through this thread is that the Tagalog > system isn't as strange as it has been made out to be. It looks like a > voice system where the syntactic function of the "subject" has been > divorced from the semantic function of the agent/actor. To me, this > seems perfectly logical. Even though in SAE the subject is equated > with the agent, there is no reason why this continues to hold in > non-SAE languages. Why not just accept that they are different, and > that Tagalog has merely taken the liberty to treat them differently?
I am vbery much in agreement with this - and eagerly waiting to read what Prof. Naylor has to say on the matter
> T > > -- > Computers aren't intelligent; they only think they are.
No, no - it is only dumb humans that think they are. Ray =============================================== =============================================== 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" ]