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THEORY: French and polypersonalism (was: THEORY: Ergativity and polypersonalism)

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Thursday, January 20, 2005, 17:16
On Wednesday, January 19, 2005, at 11:19 , # 1 wrote:

>> > French verbs never agrees with object or agent, only with the subject >> in >> > person and number: it is not polypersonnal at all...
Don't you just love these dogmatic statements ;)
>> Oh, yes, especially spoken French can be analysed like that very well. >> Search the archives especially for Christoph's remarks (usually >> on polysynthesis in French).
..and Jacques Guy made similar remarks about his native language when he was a member of this list several years ago. He was (and presumably still is) of the opinion that (spoken) French is polysynthetic. Jacques is a linguistic of international repute. I certainly found his contributions on the list very sound.
>> I think this is about sentences like >> >> Moi j'l'aime bien ce film. >> -------- >> ^ >> \_ verb with subject & object agreement >> > > That is not the same thing that's a contraction of 2 pronouns > > Moi, je l'aime bien ce film > > je = 1st person > l' = 3rd person in front of a word beginning by a vowel > if it's a consonant it will be "le" or "la" (usually contracted in l' > when speaking)
Sigh! Maxime, you seem very fond of trotting out school text explanations (like telling me what an adjective was, a few weeks back). I hate to disillusion you, but most of us know them!! Many of us are not exactly novices in linguistic matters.
> In french, a ' means that these are separate words
It does not. At best it delimits _written_ 'words'.
> _excepted_ in the word > "aujourd'hui" (today) wich is an old contraction and pasting of Old French > and/or Vulgar Latin words
Not Vulgar Latin words at all - just plain ol' French: au jour d'hui "at-the day of today". We could write it thus and say that it is 'four words' - but that would not in fact make it four 'words' any more than writing "je l'aime" necessarily makes it three 'words'.
> you can't say that, because it is contracted and that we usually > represent a > missing letter by a ', that it is a desinence > > if so you have to say that saying "we" in "we're happy" is a desinence
Please, please, please - stop lecturing us who have been at the game for twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years or more! We have sort of got the idea how apostrophes tend to be used in written language, thank you. But let me now point out two things to you: 1. WORD - "...there are several difficulties in arriving at a consistent use of the term [word] in relation to other categories of linguistic description, and in the comparison of languages of different structural types." [David Crystal] In fact defining 'word' in a _meaningful_ linguistic sense is not trivial. You are talking solely about *orthographic words*. The orthography of French is very conservative and is a poor reflexion of the modern *spoken* language. 2. If this discussion is going to be meaningful, we have to talk in terms of MORPHEMES, and whether those morphemes are BOUND or FREE; and we shall need to consider CLITICs and the difference between clitics and affixes. Moi - is the _only_ free morpheme in French to express the 1st person singular. It is not directly relevant to whether French verbs are polypersonal or not. je - is a bound morpheme in French; it is normally pre-verbal but in interrogative forms it may be bound post-verbally. me - is also a bound morpheme, occurring pre-verbally. Whether you write _je_ with white space each side, or write _j'_ is not relevant to its _function_. The question is whether these bound morphemes are clitics or whether they are so closely bound in modern (spoken) French that they are in effect affixes. ====================================================== On Thursday, January 20, 2005, at 12:53 , Mark J. Reed wrote:
> On Wed, Jan 19, 2005 at 07:30:49PM -0500, Roger Mills wrote: >> Christophe's point, as I recall, was always about _spoken_ French, in >> which >> "je l'aime" is indeed a phonological unit or "word", /ZlEm/. Note too >> that >> the various parts never occur as independent words: /Z/ /l/ (one could >> say >> that the schwas are predictable, thus non-phonemic!) /Em/ etc. Also, of >> course, I like to think he was being only semi-serious :-)))))))) > > I never got that impression at all.
Nor did I.
> I think he was quite serious that spoken French should be reanalyzed this > way,
I am sure he was; and Jacques Guy took a similar line IIRC, and it is an analysis that I have been familiar with for many years.
> and that the traditional analysis is of only diachronic value.
Yes indeed. ====================================================== On Thursday, January 20, 2005, at 01:52 , # 1 wrote: [snip]
> I'm also a native french speaker so I know what I'm talking about, even if > i'm not a linguist
I am sorry, but with respect it is just possible that if you are not a linguist you may not know what you are talking about. If I have to make a choice between people who are both linguists and native French speakers (Christophe Grandsire and Jacques Guy) and someone who is a native French speaker but not a linguist, then it seems to me fairly obvious where my choice will be. [snip]
> yes these part [Z] and [l] occur in independant words,
They are independent *orhographic* words - that is quite frankly irrelevant. They are both *bound* morphemes, and that is very relevant. ====================================================== On Thursday, January 20, 2005, at 02:45 , Tristan McLeay wrote:
> On 20 Jan 2005, at 8.04 am, # 1 wrote:
>> I'm not even sure that French can be called "accusative" because there >> are >> no markings or whatever and only the order makes the difference > > Difference in order is sufficient; accusative doesn't mean there's an > accusative case,
Quite so - word order is quite sufficient.
> but rather the subject of a transitive verb is > expressed in the same manner as the subject of an intransitive verb, > such as in English. (ish, other people can probably explain it better)
TRASK: _accusative language.... A language in which subjects of intransitive verbs and subjects of transitive verbs are usually treated identically for grammatical purposes, while direct objects of transitive verbs are treated differently." Seems to be much as Tristan says :) French is an accusative language. #1 is surely not suggesting that French might be an ergative language rather than an accusative language! [snip]
> Actually, if anyone told you that English has a solid > nominative--accusative distinction in pronouns, they were lying. > Examples to the contrary include 'It's me', 'John and me went to the > milkbar', 'between you and I'. I think also that normally when there's > a strong nom./acc. distinction, the pronoun-in-isolation form is the > nominative, whereas in English you'd use the so-called object-form > (-'Who would?' -'Me!').
Exactly. [snip]
> Henrik Theiling wrote:
>> Please read Christoph's explanations in the archives, he's French and >> he's a linguist and he's surely more competent on this matter than I >> am. > > Christophe's a linguist? I could've sworn he was a physicist!
I do not think Henrik means he is a _professional_ linguist. Christophe is an amateur linguist, just as I am. But I have always found Christophe's linguistic observations perceptive. ======================================================= On Thursday, January 20, 2005, at 03:36 , # 1 wrote in reply to Tristan's mail above: [snip]
> but your examples are wrong:
Good grief!!! Are there no bounds to Maxime's hubris? Now an expert at English as well as French!
> you can't say "John and me went to the milkbar" and "between you and I",
Sorry - not only _can_ you say such things - they *ARE* said millions of times every day. I have been speaking English for, I guess, some 64 years and hearing it being spoken for a little longer. So please do not tell me what English speakers can and cannot say. The plain fact is that Tristan is NOT wrong - such things are said again and again and again, every day.
> it is "John and I" and "between you and me"
..according to prescriptivists. The trouble is those millions of people actually speaking the language have different ideas. A linguist should be concerned with _description_ of the actual language in *all* its manifestations. ====================================================== On Thursday, January 20, 2005, at 06:28 , Philip Newton wrote:
> On Wed, 19 Jan 2005 19:53:40 -0500, Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...> > wrote:
>> I never got that impression at all. I think he was quite serious that >> spoken French should be reanalyzed this way, and that the traditional >> analysis is of only diachronic value. > > I had read similar arguments from Jacques Guy (a bona fide linguist, > as far as I know
Very much so.
> -- though his main field was languages in Vanuatu > rather than French IIRC;
Indeed - but his linguistic knowledge is very wide ranging, and he certainly knows his native language.
> I believe he's a native speaker of French who > lives in Australia) in sci.lang.
..and he was once on Conlang - a great pity that he is still not around here, especially at the moment :) [snip]
> sometimes has rather... interesting ideas. But I think his comments > about a polysynthetic(?) analysis of modern spoken French were also > meant fairly seriously.
All the ones I have read were meant to be taken quite seriously.
> ........................ where he [Jacques] points > out that someone is "misled by the spaces in the archaic French > orthography" and says that something which is traditionally written as > a separate "word" is part of the verb.
Exactement! Et....
> ..................: "If colloquial > French were an unwritten langauge, it would be most clearly analyzed > as having a rather complex verb with prefixed subject and object > marking."
Précisément! Vive Jacques! :) Ray ======================================================= ======================================================= "If /ni/ can change into /A/, then practically anything can change into anything" Yuen Ren Chao, 'Language and Symbolic Systems"


Isaac Penzev <isaacp@...>