Re: Tagalog & trigger idea: I'd like comments. :)
|From:||H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, November 17, 2004, 20:34|
On Wed, Nov 17, 2004 at 07:21:21PM +0000, Ray Brown wrote:
> 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.
My apologies, in my own confusion I've erroneously tried to
rationalize Tatari Faran as a trigger language. This obviously is
incorrect, and only caused more confusion that it dispels.
> 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."
Interesting. So 'trigger' is a more generic term than I'd come to know
But I believe 'trigger' as it is used in this thread does not
generically refer to any trigger, but to the trigger as it is used in
the Philippine languages.
> 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.
I think the confusion arises from the overloaded meanings of 'focus'
and 'topic'. At least in this thread, I believe we're using these
terms to refer to the function of the Philippine trigger rather than
'focus' or 'topic' in the general linguistic senses.
> >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 think the question is not so much emphasis, as "subject". (See
> 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?
Actually, I think I'm the one responsible for the confusion between
fronting and triggers. They have nothing to do with each other. In
fact, IIRC, Tagalog does NOT front the trigger NP, it actually occurs
at the end of the sentence.
> On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, at 04:08 , Sally Caves wrote:
> >Can you give an example of the various triggers in a Philippine language?
> > Or
> >even just a made-up one?
> AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
I think the following might prove useful:
(This is Pablo Flores' explanation of trigger systems, towards the end
of the page. His site appears to have re-surfaced online after a
period of disappearance.)
> On Tuesday, November 16, 2004, at 07:10 , H. S. Teoh wrote:
> >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
> 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)
You're right. It has nothing to do with triggeriness. Sorry, it's my
fault for exacerbating the confusion.
> >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.
Alright, I think I should just stick with "subject".
> 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".
Ah, but this analysis only works if there's a difference between
active and passive (which there is in English). In Tatari Faran, they
are one and the same. I think I'm wrong in describing this as
"emphasis"; the fronted NP in Tatari Faran is essentially serving as
the subject of the sentence.
> >(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.
OK, I've been through this before, I should've known better. Let's
just forget what I said in my foolish attempt to shoehorn Tatari Faran
into the trigger language mold, and say that the fronted NP is just
the subject of the sentence.
> >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
> 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"
I think I just added to the mess by trying to equate fronting with
triggers. Tatari Faran is SVO, if indeed you can call it that, so
fronting something is essentially equivalent to making something the
subject. However, this process is quite different from the equivalent
in accusative languages, because noun cases are selected based on
semantic rather than syntactic role, so do not change when the NP is
made subject or "demoted" from subjecthood. Therefore, fronting an NP
in Tatari Faran is significantly different from fronting an NP in,
But that's beside the point, we're talking about triggers here, which
Tatari Faran has nothing to do with. So I'll just leave it at that as
far as Tatari Faran is concerned.
> 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[...]
OK, here's my attempt to clear up this confusion, according to what I
understand of Philippino triggers. (If someone knows better, please
First, it should be noted that linguistic terminology surrounding the
Phillipino languages are not standardized, mainly due to divergent
opinions about how things actually work. The term "trigger", as
applied to the Phillipino languages, is the same thing called
"subject" by some linguists who study these languages. Both "trigger"
and "subject" here probably do NOT correspond to their accepted
definitions in the linguistics of European languages; so one ought to
be cautious when comparing a Phillipino language with a European one
not to confuse the different usages of these terms. Henceforth, when I
use the term "trigger", it shall mean the "subject" as it applies to,
say, Tagalog, and NOT in the generic sense of "trigger".
In Tagalog, the arguments to a verb, let's say "to cut", can take on a
number of different semantic roles, among which are actor, patient,
and location. Let's say a man cut down wood in the forest. Hence,
"man" is the actor (the one who's doing the cutting), "wood" is the
patient (the thing being cut), and "forest" is the location (where
this cutting takes place). This is what I call the "factual content"
in my other post, the factual event that one wishes to communicate to
Now, in Tagalog, there are "case markers" (or markers of some sort;
again, one ought to be cautious about equating this with noun case in
European languages) for each of these roles. Let's call them -ACT,
-PAT, and -LOC, respectively. However, it is not simply a matter of
marking the nouns with each of these case markers; because one of the
nouns will serve as the "subject" or "trigger". (Perhaps "subject" is
a better term here, since it is closest to how the English subject
functions.) Let's say "man", the actor, will serve as the subject. In
that case, the sentence will come out like this:
cut-V-ACT wood-PAT forest-LOC man-TRG
"A man cuts wood in the forest."
Note that the semantic role of "man", the actor, is marked on the
*verb* rather than on "man". The other nouns are simply marked for
their respective roles. Perhaps a more appropriate translation might
be: "the cutter of wood in the forest is the man" (to parallel what we
shall see below).
But in Tagalog, there's nothing special about the actor role; it does
not always have to serve as the subject. For example, one can choose
to have "wood", the patient, serve as subject. In this case, the
sentence comes out like this:
cut-V-PAT forest-LOC man-ACT wood-TRG
The translation of this might be something like "the cutting-patient
of a man in the forest is the wood." A smooth translation might be
"the wood is cut in the forest by a man." - but with the caveat that
the passive voice in the English is an artifact of translation rather
than an actual analog to the Tagalog. (No pun intended.)
In the same way, one may choose to have "forest", the location, serve
as subject instead. The sentence then comes out like this:
cut-V-LOC man-ACT wood-PAT forest-TRG
The translation of this is something like "the cutting-place by a man
of the wood is the forest". One might translate this as "in the
forest, a man cuts wood", or "in the forest, wood was cut by a man" -
but again with the caveat that use of an adverbial phrase for "in the
forest" in the former and the passive voice in the latter are merely
artifacts of translation. The "subject" in this case is "forest", not
"man" or "wood".
This, in short, is how Tagalog grammar works. Or at least, how it is
proposed to work according to the linguists who advanced the idea of
triggers. I hope this clears up (at least some of) the confusion about
"triggers" in the Philippino languages.
All men are mortal. Socrates is mortal. Therefore all men are Socrates.