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

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Thursday, November 18, 2004, 15:16
On Wednesday, November 17, 2004, at 08:36 , H. S. Teoh wrote:

> On Wed, Nov 17, 2004 at 07:21:21PM +0000, Ray Brown wrote: >> HELP!! >> >> 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.
No matter - it is certainly helping me to crystalize ideas on what "Philippino triggerism" really is and is not. It is a truism that we learn from mistakes :) [snip]
>> 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 > so far?
> 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.
See John's comment below.
> > [...] >> 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.
I think this is probably so. This is why I pointed out to Mr Pehrson with his "A Bit of Flame" why it is useful to define terms. Otherwise we finish up talking at cross-purposes which does not help one bit. I understand: topic = "that element of a sentence which is presented as already existing in the discourse and which the rest of the sentence ('the _comment_) is about". Some people prefer the terms _theme_ and _rheme_ rather than _topic_ and _comment_. focus = "Special prominence given to some element in a sentence which represents the most important new information in the sentence or which is explicitly contrasted with something else." It has not so far been clear from this current thread whether we are talking about topic or about focus (in their conventional linguistic senses) or about something else specifically peculiar to the "Philippino triggerism" construction. [snip]
>> 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.
You may be :)
> They have nothing to do with each other. In > fact, IIRC, Tagalog does NOT front the trigger NP,
So I suspected after reading Roger's mail. [snip]
> I think the following might prove useful: > >
Yes, thanks. I understood everything Pablo wrote :) I also notice the 'focused' NP comes last, as you said. It is also interesting to note that according to Pablo, the NP is the trigger and therefore, I assume, the "nominalized verb" at the beginning of the sentence is the target. Interesting. [snip] ================================================== On Wednesday, November 17, 2004, at 08:36 , John Cowan wrote: Thanks for the reply. If only everyone would reply with the same clarity.. .. :)
> Ray Brown scripsit: > >> 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. ..." > > The use of "trigger" in discussing Austronesian trigger languages is a > special case of this.
I was fairly certain that it must be.
> In a trigger language: > > 1) There is a distinguished NP conventionally called the "trigger" in > every sentence:
Yes. I understand this now.
> calling it the subject, the focus, or the topic (as used > to be often done and sometimes still is) is misleading, because its role > is purely syntactic.
Ah!! Yes, it is a bit misleading applying semantic terms like 'topic' & 'focus' to a purely syntactic feature. "subject" on the other hand is a syntactic label; I suppose if the NP is analyzed as the grammatical subject, the analysis of the verb will be different from the analysis given by Pablo and below by you.
> It may be and often is the focus, but it can also > be the topic, or be neither topic nor focus.
Right! A bit like the grammatical subject in European languages which is often the topic, but need not be - can also be the focus or be neither topic nor focus :)
> 2) That NP triggers the verb (the target) to show its semantic role. > So if the trigger is an actor, the verb is marked "trigger is actor"; > if the trigger is a patient, the verb is marked "trigger is patient", > and so on.
> 3) The trigger NP is not itself marked for semantic role; it is either > unmarked or it is given a semantically neutral mark meaning "this is > the trigger".
Like Tagalog _ang_ or _si_, i guess.
> 4) Any other NPs in the sentence are directly marked for semantic role.
OK. [snip]
>> 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. > > Most trigger languages are strictly verb-first, so the verb affix tells > the listener what role the trigger NP will have.
That makes sense. The fronting was a Tatari Faran "red herring" :)
>>> Can you give an example of the various triggers in a Philippine >>> language? >>> Or even just a made-up one? >> >> AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! > > Gives-ACTOR-TRIGGER John-TRIGGER Mary-DATIVE book-PATIENT > Gives-PATIENT-TRIGGER John-ACTOR Mary-DATIVE book-TRIGGER > Gives-DATIVE-TRIGGER John-ACTOR Mary-TRIGGER book-PATIENT > > And the three NPs can be rearranged for stylistic or pragmatic reasons, > or any of them except the trigger can be left out if obvious. (As I > noted above, the TRIGGER marking is zero in some languages.)
Thanks - that and Pablo's explanation are making everything fall into place. it's simple really ;) [snip]
> Tatari Faran is definitely not a trigger language,
I think everyone, including its author, is agreed on that. [snip]
> 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. > > It has focus but not topic AFAICT.
Yes, I am inclined to agree - it did remind me quite a bit of Welsh in that respect.
> Trigger languages don't have voice either, although earlier > interpretations > that called the trigger the "subject" viewed the verb affix as a voice > marker.
> The reason that analysis doesn't work well is that in voice > systems there is one voice that heavily predominates, and the others > are used for special effects (demoting or preventing particular roles).
> Trigger systems are more even-handed; for example, actor-trigger sentences > are not particularly preferred.
Ok - I see this now.
>> Eh? I had always understood that German fronted the _topic_, not the >> focus. > > So had I.
Glad we agree - 'twill be interesting to see what our German friends say :) [snip]
> I do have "Lessons in Basic Tagalog for Foreigners and Non-Tagalogs" > dating from the 1950/60 period - but it does not mention 'triggers'! > > How does it label the role of nouns marked with "ang"? "Subject", I bet.
Ms Aspillera calls _ang_ the "definite" article. In the "Glossary of Terms" at the back of the book she does gloss "subject", "object", "active" and "passive". ============================================================= On Wednesday, November 17, 2004, at 11:03 , Henrik Theiling wrote: [snip] ...
>> 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.] > > Ah, this makes it clear! Yes, it's the way you say. A test > paraphrasing the topic with 'was das X angeht' shows that you could > equivalently say: > > Was das Buch angeht, das hat sie ihm ZUM GEBURTSTAG geschenkt. > > Yes. Clearly topic-fronting. Clearly focus = ZUM GEBURTSTAG.
Phew! I'm glad that at least is settled. ============================================================ Aw! Just when I thought I got this triggering business sorted as well..... ... On Thursday, November 18, 2004, at 02:50 , B. Garcia wrote:
> On Wed, 17 Nov 2004 19:21:21 +0000, Ray Brown <ray.brown@...> > wrote:
>> 1. Do I assume that what is being marked is indeed the focus? > > Yes. If a noun is marked with ang for nouns and si for proper names > (in Tagalog) it IS the focus of the verb. Everything else will *not* > be the focus of the verb.
"focus of the verb" is rather different 'focus' as I was understanding the term. See John's comments above. I think this overloaded use of 'focus' has been partly the source of the problem. If we are going to speak of triggers, it might be less confusing to use the terms 'trigger' and 'target', I think.
>> 2. Is then the target the emphasized element? > > Yes, because the target (which i assume you mean marked with either > ang or si) is the focus of the verb.
Oh dear. This quite the opposite that I have been understanding from Pablo' s web-page and from John. I had understood that the NP marked with 'ang' or 'si' was the _trigger_, not the target.
>> 3. As not all sentences have focus, do 'non-focused' sentences have a >> trigger affixed to the verb? If so, why? > > Non-triggered (meaning they lack a noun that is focused) verbs can > either have a trigger affix on the verb, or not.
Now I can see that we are in fact talking at cross purposes. I was using 'focus' in the sense of "new information", whereas you are using 'focus' to mean the NP to which the verbal affix relates. It is clear the two meanings are not the same.
> Those that do not have a trigger affix:.
Now should we be speaking of the 'trigger affix' or the 'triggered affix'. I am not trying to split hairs; I am trying to make sense of the construction. If, as John says, the marked NP is the trigger, then the verb is the target and the affix is triggered by the NP. This is something I can understand because to a limited extent we have NP targeting verbs in European languages; the subject NP triggers verbal agreement, usually a particular suffix. In the Bantulangs we may have two NPs targeting the same ver, one triggering subject agreement and the other triggering object agreement. So I do not find it a quantum leap to find a NP triggering role-agreement or role-marking in a target verb. But you are saying the NP is the target. Are you saying the affix is the trigger or is the verb+affix? I suppose it triggers the target by causing the target to loose its role marking & to be marked with _ang_ or _si_. But I must confess I find this explanation a little harder to follow. But one can see why people get confused when there are clearly two almost opposite explanations of the same construction and both explanations use the term 'trigger' *sigh*
> - State a like, a desire, a want, a dislike. These are created with > the pseudo verbs "gusto" - like, want, and "ayaw" - not like. They > lack a trigger affix because they aren't really verbs.
So what are they?
> They can also have a focused or unfocused noun. When they have a > focused noun, the noun is definite. Without one the noun is > indefinite. > > Ex: > > Gusto ko ng litson - I like lechon (in general) > Gusto ko ang litson - I like the lechon (this one in particular)
Which I suppose is why Ms Aspillera calls _ang_ the "definite article". So _ng_ marks the patient? [snip]
> Verbs that do have a trigger affix: >
> I'm a bit confused as to the use of may and wala in other ways so I'll > leave it alone for now.
I must confess I am also somewhat confused now. I wait to read the reaction of others.
>> 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? > > I made the mistake of posting in haste. Where I said "affix on the > noun" i really meant the trigger _particle_ . ONLY the verb has the > affix. It is that particle which marks what is being > emphasized/focused.
Sorry, I do not follow how we can have a _trigger affix_ and a _trigger particle_. Either the NP is the trigger or the verb is the trigger. Either the affix or the particle is being _triggered_. I am finding the current terminology confusing.
>> Is there no way of emphasizing any thing else than a NP? > > Such as? I'm a bit dim on what you're asking.
He was swimming *under the water*. (Prepositional phrase is emphasized). I saw her *yesterday*. (Adverb is emphasized). Yes, he actually *bought* it. (Verb is emphasized). Probably we should not be using the term 'emphasized' when describing the 'trigger system'. [snip]
> If you mean fronting the verb (i am unsure of what the term exactly > means),
It would mean putting the verb first in a sentence when that is not its normal position. So in "Buying it, is he?" the verb has been fronted. But it is clear now that fronting, while a feature of Tatari Faran (and Welsh, German & many other langs) is not relevant to the "trigger sustem" discussion.
> This is why I gave up on Saalkamis being a trigger language. I get the > fist of it, but I don't think I fully understand the thought process > behind it all!
Oh ;) Maybe this present thread will help us both to reach a fuller understanding. I hope it does. 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" ]


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>