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THEORY: THEORY isolating & other typologies (was: THEORY: Ergativity and polypersonalism)

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Friday, January 21, 2005, 7:24
On Thursday, January 20, 2005, at 04:43 , Andreas Johansson wrote:

> Quoting Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>: > >> >> One curious thing about English though is that it's often painted as a >> relatively isolating language, but as I understand it (and I might be >> *wildly* wrong here, which is the simplest explanation) German tends >> not to use its genitive, preferring expressions including 'von', and >> doesn't like its simple past tense, preferring expressions paralleling >> English past perfects, whereas English enjoys the use of both... OTOH, >> I've never heard anyone claiming that German's a relatively isolating >> language... > > I think the genitive is a bad example, since many would deny that English > has an > inflectional genitive at all.
That's right. the possesive 's is a clitic in modern English and attaches itself to the end of the whole noun phrase; for example: It is the guy you were telling me about's cat = It the cat that belongs to the guy about whom you were telling me. If 's was a genitive case ending it would have to be glued onto the end of _guy_ - it ain't.
> A little-used on surely beats none!
It does. [snip]
>> BTW---if a language forms everything with clitics (like English seems >> to want to), does it necessarily count as isolating or agglutinative or >> something, or can it be whatever it darn well feels like based on other >> aspects?
As I have observed recently, natlangs have the horrible habit of not fitting neatly into these typologies of 19th century linguists.
> I'd consider it isolating - clitics are syntactic words, and > isolating/agglutinating primarily refers to syntax, not phonology (or > that's my > understanding).
Yes, to be agglutinating, the bound morphemes must be affixes. But the borderline between clitics and affixes is IMO a tad fuzzy.
> It's been said that an extremely agglutinating language is > indistinguishible > from an extremely isolating one, tho.
Depending where put the white spaces, I suppose :) Personally, I have doubts. It would be interesting see an example. Ray ======================================================= ======================================================= "If /ni/ can change into /A/, then practically anything can change into anything" Yuen Ren Chao, 'Language and Symbolic Systems"


Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>