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Re: Strategies for disambiguating ad*

From:Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 28, 2006, 19:23
Eldin Raigmore wrote:

> On Thu, 29 Jun 2006 00:12:04 +1000, Yahya Abdal-Aziz <yahya@...> > >Here I'd like to note that before joining this list I'd never > >heard of the Topic - Comment structure....
Possibly due to analyzing and teaching languages according to Latin-based theories: There must be a subject!! It's always amusing to see old grammars of Malay, for inst., giving elaborate tables of Nominative, Genitiive, Dative, Accusative etc. forms-- but the word has the same form in every case. (Older grammars of Western langs. too have been guilty of this, so it's not just non-Western langs. that get the treatment.) but it seems such
> >a good fit to the patterns we see, that I'm now often torn > >between analysing a given (head-initial) sentence as Topic, > >Comment OR as Subject, Predicate.
I think it's true that Ml/Indon. and others are particularly fuzzy in this respect. ER:
> .... But FWIW based on the writings of authors who site that paper, I'd > say that > topic-prominence is probably an areal feature of the linguistic areas > containing the natlangs you are asking about.
Possibly an areal phenomenon. It may also have to do with the general tendency to omit subject pronouns, and usual lack of overt subj. markers on the verb (e.g. Spanish cant-o/as/a). Buginese (I suspect ult. rather closely related to Ml.) does use subject affixes (and object too in some cases): manasui berre? 'she cooks/cooked (some) rice (indef.)' ma-nasu-I ACT-cook-3/subj nanasui berre?é 'she cooks/cooked the rice (def.)' na-nasu-i berre?-é 3/subj....3-obj. rice-def. berre?é rinasui 'the rice was cooked' rice-def ri-PASS....-I 3/subj. rinasui berre?é -- probably OK too. (I don't recall whether you can have an indef. subj. here) (It's possible, though apparently rare, to express the agent...our informant hesitated a long time, finally came up with "berre?é rinasui ri Siti" 'the rice was cooked by Siti'-- IIRC he did say that it was impossible to express a _pronoun_ agent in this way-- you'd have to revert to the active form.) The street-name-change sentence would thus probably have to be: lalengéro [intonation break=topic], asenna ri-[change]-i mancaji... laleng-é-ro aseng-na street-def-that name-its (was changed) become... Here, as in the Ml. ex (I claimed).. 'its name' is actually the "subject" of the passive verb. With permissible word-order changes, as also in the Ml. ex., "lalengéro, ri[change]i asenna mancaji..." would probably be OK too. And a straight SV-passive version: asenna lalengéro ri[change]i... 'The name of that street was changed..." And an active version: na[change]i asenna lalengéro... '(they) changed the name of that street...' Actually western languages can topicalize too, but often require additional material... (As for) John, he went to Yale.... ~(As for) John, I really like him. etc. Span. en cuanto a... Fr. quant à... (resumptive pronouns usually required, too) Our schoolmarms railed against those who said "John, he..." :-( I may have overlooked another, better, Kash possibility-- you can give the sentence a "passive" appearance and interpretation, even though it remains active, by fronting the object ("its name")--"that street" would still be the topic-- ratu yu, arañi irucunu yukar... street that, name-its they-changed become... OR SV, not Topic/Comment: arañi ratu yu irucunu yukar... name-its street that they-changed become... (After my experience with NO PASSIVE Kash, I've given Gwr a passive voice, though its uses are not yet fully clear.) (snip useful Google refs.)