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Re: Existential voice

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 3, 2005, 18:26
On Monday, May 2, 2005, at 09:17 , Gregory Gadow wrote:

> Thanks for the comments, Ray.
You're welcome.
> As for my joke about why not me or the dog raining, I was just pointing > out an oddity of idiomatic English that has always amused/annoyed me ;-b
Now you can add Zeus & his chamber pot to the other amusements :)
> I am trying to grammaticalize a verb form with no participant roles. As > I'm refining the rules for creating the active and passive voices, I found > that I needed some kind of regularity in how to express a situation such > as "it is raining." My current grammar requires a "before phrase" for > active and passive verbs, and I want to avoid using a dummy subject;
I agree about the dummy subjects - I don't like 'em either!
> that > means coming up with a voice that is neither active nor passive and thus > does not require a "before phrase." (In Glörsa, the "before phrase" -- > kizakinwes [kIzA'kInh\Es] -- would be the subject of an active voice verb > and the object of a passive voice verb.)
Umm - sounds a bit like ergativity :)
> It sounds like I'm on the right path, even if it is a bit unbeaten.
Yep - if, for whatever reason(s), Glörsa active & passive require such preverbal NPs, and you do not want to have non-referential dummy preverbal NPs, I guess you are. ========================================= On Tuesday, May 3, 2005, at 05:56 , Herman Miller wrote:
> Gregory Gadow wrote:
>> yövïnan [jovi'nAn] - to harvest >> yövïnawne [jovi'nAh\nE] - "it is harvesting" (the crops are ripe and >> everyone is busy harvesting them) > > If Descartes had had this verb form, he could have started with "it is > thinking"
But Descartes DID have hve just such a verb form available. Don't forget he wrote in Latin. _cogitatur_ has precisely that meaning - thinking is happening, without specifying any thinker or what is being thought.
> (which seems to avoid the circular reasoning, but then I'm not > sure if you can really get anywhere from there without some extra > assumptions about the way that thinking works....)
Umm - but if René had written _cogitatur_ instead of his famous _cogito_, what we he have put next? _sum_ hardly follows. Cogitatur (ergo) estur ? (I recall that Christophe argued at some length that René Descartes wrote 'cogito sum', not 'cogito ergo sum' :) Thinking is going on, (therefore) being is happening - without specifying any "be-er" or entity. But 'being' surely presupposes that something or someone exists? In any case, this seems to me no less circular reasoning than the canonical _cogito (ergo) sum_ and if you are not likely to get anywhere without some assumption about the way thinking works, I think it is probably even less likely you can proceed without making some assumption about being?
> >> I know what I'm trying to say, but the use looks very strange. Even >> stranger was when I put the verb "to hope" in this voice and adding the >> modifiers for strong definitiveness (föle) and habitual action (zëthe): >> >> hütawne föle zëthe [hutA'h\nE fo'lE ze'TE] >> >> This sentence could be translated as, "it has a habit of repeatedly >> hoping, most definitely" or more loosely, "hope springs eternal." >> >> What I would like to ask is, >> >> * Am I using the term "voice" correctly? >> * Given my description, does it look like I'm using this voice correctly? >> * Are there any natlangs with something similar that I could use as a >> model? >> * Any suggestions on how I can extend to other uses I haven't thought of? > > It's probably better to define it as a valence decreasing operation. I > don't know if any language that does this ... Thomas E. Payne gives > examples of "impersonal passives" which can make the subject of an > intransitive verb unspecified, but this wouldn't work with transitive > verbs like your two examples.
But it does! In what way do _metitur_ and _speratur_ not mean the same as Gregory's "yövïnawne" and "hütawne" respectively? These make both the subject and the object of transitive verbs unspecified.
> (He also writes "We know of no languages > that employ specific morphology just for impersonal passives". Is it > possible that this verb form has other uses besides the "existential > voice"?)
AFAIK this is so. It is true that the passives of transitive verbs I have given above may be used impersonally, i.e. with a subject which, in the case of the passives, is the 'done-to' entity; but they may also have subjects, for example: frumentum metitur - the corn is being harvested pax ardenter speratur - peace is ardently hope for haud cogitandum cogitatur - the unthinkable is being thought What Gregory appears to want is a verb form that must be used impersonally and cannot have a subject NP.
> Then again, I don't know of any really good reason not to call it a voice.
I agree - if a language employs specific morphology just for 'impersonal passives' and for no other use then - as I have argued in a previous mail - it could be considered a voice. My only query is why it would be necessary to do this - but I guess Gregory has answered that. 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" ]


Herman Miller <hmiller@...>