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Re: Basque case usage (was: Re: Polysynthetic Languages)

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Friday, September 26, 2003, 19:57
En réponse à Isidora Zamora :

>Many thanks to you and to John Cowan for trying to expalin this >phenomenon. I wonder if the French example is similar to the way we will >insert "you know" into an English sentence at times when the information >given is definitely not information already known to the hearer? As in: >"And, you know, I really made him regret how he treated me." (When all new >information is being related to the hearer.) The purpose of the "you know" >seems to be to draw the hearer in by referring to him.
It's similar, but since it's a full phrase it has quite a different effect (French does that with "tu sais", and it doesn't have exactly the same effect).
>Someone mentioned here the other week that Japanese is *extremely* >left-branching.
It is indeed :) .
>How'd you come to learn Basque, BTW?
I actually don't know that much Basque. I just read about the language and found it interesting, so I bought a small book about the Basques and it happened to contain a small grammar of the Basque language. Nearly everything I know about the language comes from that booklet.
>Thank you very much. Someday, after I have re-educated myself in >real-world linguistics, I hope that I will not need to ask very basic >questions like this that I should already know the answers to :-) (I mean, >seriously, I have an undergraduate degree in linguistics, and I have to ask >what a comitative case is because I was never taught. That's >embarassing. At least my phonetics and phonolgy are better than my syntax.)
I've heard Chomsky did quite some damage indeed :)) .
>Could you (or Rob Nierse) give me an example of the use of the inessive >case vs. the locative genitive in Basque so that I can try to really grasp >what the difference in usage is?
I'll let Rob come up with an example (I don't have one). But I can already tell that the Basque inessive is purely spatial and cannot be used to complete nouns, while the locative genitive is used exclusively to complete nouns.
>How many cases are there in Basque? So far I've heard mentioned the >ergative, absolutive, dative, possessive genitive, locative genitive, >comitative, inessive, and instrumental. Are there more?
Basque has 12 to 14 cases depending on how you count. The different cases are: absolutive, ergative, instrumental, dative, possessive genitive, comitative, destinative, locative genitive, inessive, adlative, ablative, partitive. The adlative has also two derivations: its main form is in -ra, but it has a form in -rantz called "directive" ("in the direction of") and a form in -raino called "terminative" ("up to"). Also, the destinative is normally in -tzat and means "instead of", but also has a form in -entzat meaning "in the interest of, for (beneficiary). But those two forms, AFAIK, are not counted as separated cases, unlike the derivations of the adlative. The Basque declination is mostly agglutinative, but it has some strange features, like the necessity of adding -ta- between the root and the case ending in spatial cases when the noun is *not* a spatial noun (i.e. doesn't describe a place) in the indefinite declination, or the fact that nouns inflect for number only in the definite declination (through the definite article affix which is -a in the singular and -e in the plural). The indefinite declension is unmarked for number (if you need to indicate number of an indefinite noun, you need to add some thing like an adjective equivalent of "some" or "one"). If you want to know more about Basque, is quite a good online grammar, although it uses a somewhat different nomenclature from mine. For instance, it considers only some of the cases I've presented as true cases. The others it calls "postpositions". Since Basque is agglutinative, the distinction is thin and both descriptions have their merits and drawbacks. Also, it calls Basque a "free order language" and give many examples of free order. However, all examples I've seen outside this grammar are strictly SOV, and nearly never go away from this pattern. So I don't know if you can call Basque really a "free order language". If you count in all the spoken utterances of people, I think any language could be called "free order language". After all, it's one of the characteristics of spoken language to be driven more by necessity of communication than by grammar rules. So things like word order can be forgotten when it helps communication and context keeps the meaning clear. Even Spoken Japanese allows noun phrases after the verb. That doesn't make it a "free order language". Christophe Grandsire. You need a straight mind to invent a twisted conlang.