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Re: Telona grammar, part 2

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Friday, February 8, 2002, 8:13
En réponse à Jim Grossmann <steven@...>:

> > Is it wise to construct a syntax in which all--or most--possible > sequences > of morphemes constitute syntactically well-formed utterances? > > Is it possible that constructing a conlang in this manner would increase > the > chances that mistaken utterances would look well-formed, and so > increase > misunderstandings among interolocutors? >
Definitely! But moreover, it would be a problem because it would restrain too much the liberty of actual speakers to speak "not following the rules". Actual speech is usually quite different from what is supposed to be correct. The word order can be much changed, meaningless words added a little everywhere (like American English "like" used between each two words by some speakers :)) ) or even inside words :)) . It would be difficult to add afterthoughts (after all, you sometimes finish a sentence in a way different from what you had thought you would). People would have to think their whole sentence before uttering it, in order to be sure that no misunderstanding can occur. Of course, the picture is not that bad. All languages have markers and/or pro- forms and can use them to bend a too rigid grammar. Spoken French does that so much that nowadays you can say that it has free word order (well, following a usual topic-comment construction), with agreement of the verb with the subject, object and indirect object :)) . Still, unless those pro-forms are very well defined (adding to the rigidness of the grammar, so it's not that a good idea :)) ), they'll usually won't be enough to disambiguate everything. Agreement markers are definitely not useless (unlike what some speakers of English may think).
> (We can leave aside languages whose many bound morphemes result in > syntactically free word order: IIRC, the order of morphemes within > words > in such languages tends to be strict.) >
True, though I don't think it influences much understanding. For instance, Turkish always places the plural marker before the case marker, but they could very well be swapped without loss of understanding. The reason is more pragmatic: plural is seen more tied to the word than function, and thus will tend to stay nearer to the word. Still, having the contrary wouldn't make much of a problem. Usually, bound morphemes that can appear together have functions different enough that they *could* appear in any order without ambiguity. Indeed, it's been seen in the history of some languages that morphemes have changed order through time without problem (case suffixes becoming prepositions, or prepositions becoming postpositions and then case suffixes, etc...). Even the case of the order of adjectives in front of the noun in English is an example: there is a definite strict order of adjectives in front of a noun in English. Yet changing that order wouldn't alter communication at all, and indeed other languages can have a much different order. The reason why the order is kept strict has nothing to do with preventing ambiguity. IMO, it lies in the fact that the human brains likes to have systems to refer to, and it even makes systems where there's no need for them :)) . Christophe. Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.