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The amazing Dr. Smith (was Re: Active case-marking natlangs)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg.rhiemeier@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 13, 2001, 0:35
Marcus Smith <smithma@...> writes:

> >Hmmm, this is what I call an interesting view! Add more subject cases > >to an active language in order to distinguish degrees of volition, and > >it is no longer an active language? This sounds weird. > > Only if you define "active" by the fact that the subject can change "case" > based on various parameters.
Which I don't and never did.
> If you define "active" by which cases are > used, then this is not wierd at all. And if you re-read what I wrote, that > is exactly how I am defining it. There are four proto-typical roles > (ignoring ditransitives and experiencers): Subject of a transitive (S), > object of a transitive (P), subject of an "active" verb (A), and subject of > a "stative" verb (O). (Defining "active" and "stative" is not easy, and I'm > not even going to try here since it is irrelevant.) Accusative languages > group these four roles as S/A/O (nom) vs P (acc). Ergative languages group > the roles as P/A/O (erg) vs S (abs). Active languages group them as S/A > (active) vs P/O (stative).
This is exactly how I understand it.
> Tokana and Nur-ellen pull S and A apart and have > a system like S1/A1 vs S2/A2 vs S3/A3 vs P/0. This is why I do not consider > them active. They are most certainly Split/Fluid-S; but Active is only a > subset of Split/Fluid-S.
Now this is what I call a non-sequitur! I still don't understand why the fact that different degrees of volition *within* what Mr. Smith calls "S/A" are marked by different cases - of which none is the same as the case used for P/O - means that the language is not active.
> > Personally, I find this definition a bit weak, and would > >call that "split-S" instead. To me, the term "active" seems to indicate > >that the type of marking is determined by the active-ness of the verb. > > This is the root of our disagreement. I define active based on the case > pattern, you define it on variability.
Fiddlesticks! I don't define it on variability! In fact, case marking in Nur-ellen is fairly rigid outside the degrees of volition system. Apparently, Mr. Smith misunderstands my posts ON PURPOSE. And what he writes is often hardly understandable at all. To wit:
> >It apparently also shows what we have already seen in Mohawk - that > >active marking has little to do with whether a verb is actually active > >or not: > > It does not show that at all. All it shows is that active marking and case > marking are not the same thing. It says absolutely nothing about the > semantics of the verb or how they express activity.
I don't have the faintest idea what he tries to say in this paragraph! All I can read out of it (and much other of his writing) is: "Oh dear, you are all clueless idiots who don't know what they are talking about; you are soooooo wrong, but I won't explain you why you are wrong because you won't understand it anyway!" I'd rather say that he has nothing meaningful to say about Tokana and Nur-ellen at all; to him, this discussion seems to fulfill only one single purpose: to show us all what a cool, learned guy he is and how little the rest of the list knows about his field of expertise. He found some people on the list use his favourite linguistic term discussing their conlangs, and decided to slam this precious little term out of the hands of those Unchosen Amateurs (TM). And because he couldn't find a real mistake in the ways those Unchosen Amateurs (TM) use it, he adopted a strategy of mis-reading their posts and coming up with entirely bogus ideas about the amateurs' view of the matter in order to ridicule them, and of baffling them with some deeply obfuscated, entirely unintelligible techspeak. Sorry, Mr. Smith, but you have failed. All that buggaboo doesn't impress me in the least, it is all too riudiculous. Frankly, I could harly care less about what he thinks Nur-ellen (or, for that matter, Tokana) is. Jörg.


J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>