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Abandoning the Metaphysics of Subjects and Objects?

From:David Peterson <thatbluecat@...>
Date:Sunday, August 24, 2003, 8:41
So, looking at word order typology, we have the following:

SOV = 45% of the world's languages
SVO = 42%
VSO = 9%
VOS = 3%
OVS = 0.9%
OSV = 0.1%

Comrie has pointed out the following:

(1) Tendency for S to come before O: SO = 96% (SOV, SVO, VSO); OS = 4% (VOS, OVS, OSV)
(2) Tendency for O and V to touch: Touching = 91% (SOV, SVO, VOS, OVS); not = 9% (VSO, OVS)

I'd like to add the following to these:

(3) Tendency for S and O to come together: SO = 57.1% (SOV, VSO, OSV, VOS); not = 42.9% (SVO, OVS).

(4) Removing the extremely rare ones, you still get: SO = 54% (SOV, VSO); not = 42% (SVO).

Now, to add a wrinkle: If one thought of subjects and objects as *identical* (i.e.,
the idea of agency is rendered unimporant), then you could reduce the number of
word orders to the following: NV, VN, NVN (where N stands for "subject or
object"). This would then be the make up of the three dominant language groups.
Now, if you ordered these via optimality theory, and, say, had a rule that
states "verbal phrases should follow subject/object phrases", and ordered that
one first, and then had a second rule stating, "subjects and objects are
identical", the three top word orders would still be (in order): SOV, SVO and
VSO--even though SVO would be the "odd" one. (A third rule would have to be
"objects should follow subjects", but that would put VOS last, rather than

Anyway, why all this? It would just posit a way to think of sentences where objects
aren't dominated by verbs, but where, rather, verbs specify relationships
between nouns.

This gave me the idea for a verbless conlang, and I was wondering if it was similar
to All Noun. Here's the idea:

Slot 1 = NP
Slot 2 = case particle
Slot 3 = NP
Slot 4 = conjunctive particle
Slot 5 = NP
Slot 6 = inverse (optional)

Anyway, so what you'd get is first a noun (let's say, "boy"), then a case particle,
which could be accusative (NP1 acts on NP2), locative (NP1 is stationed at/near
NP2), genetive (NP1 is of NP2), etc. Then you'd have the second noun (let's
say, "dog"). Then would come a conjunctive particle, which would be something
like "by means of", or "under the condition of", or "because of". Then the last
NP would be the verbal NP, which would be some sort of abstract noun (let's
say, "sight"). And then if you wanted to fix a certain NP order, I threw in an
inverse particle, while I was thinking of this. I just realized it's probably
not necessary. Anyway, so what you could end up with is:

(1) The boy (2) stimulus* (3) the dog (4) by means of (5) sight.
"The boy sees the dog".

*I use this for an accusative for experiencer verbs. If I were to put an
accusative in there, I'd think of it not as "seeing", but as "looking at".

Is this something like how All Noun worked?

I was just curious.  :)



Sylvia Sotomayor <kelen@...>