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Trigger System (was: QUESTION-New project)

From:Kristian Jensen <kljensen@...>
Date:Sunday, February 14, 1999, 22:23
Pablo Flores wrote replying to Tim Smith:
> >The examples are quite clear, so thanks a lot. But since you >mentioned the Tagalog trigger system, I'd like to know a bit about >it (I mean, from anyone who knows). I did read a description of it >some time ago, but it was quite ininteligible. How does it work?
Pablo, below is a highly modified version of a post I made to conlang about a year ago. (Yes, fortunately I have such posts handy in case anyone else asks): 8-) Since I'm one of the few Austronesian (Tagalog) speakers on this list, I feel obliged to tell you something about triggers. (I'm sure Matt Pearson would do a better job than me though - I believe that he is THE Malagasy expert on this list). In Tagalog, there are only three markings for case: the Trigger, the Genitive, and the Oblique. This is exactly like most (if not all) the Philippine languages. Furthermore, much like many Western Austronesian languages, there are a large inventory of affixes used to create different nuances in the verbs, noteably the verbal trigger. When the trigger plays the role of the agent, an agent-trigger affix is used with the verb. When the trigger plays the role of the patient, a patient-trigger affix is used with the verb. When the trigger plays the role of location, then a location-trigger affix is used with the verb. Etc. etc., etc... A particularly noteworthy feature of this system is that non-triggered (unfocused) core arguments are marked as the genitive. As a result, "I am buying" and "the buying (of something) of mine" (or "my buying (of something)") have identical structures. Verbal constructions appear to be identical with nominal constructions by the use genitives. One theory has it that the verbal affixes are actually nominalizing affixes. Examples always help. Take the sentence "The man cut some wood in the forest". With three different arguments, three trigger forms are possible. Below are parsing examples of the way a Filipino language would translate the sentence. I have refrained from using real language examples at this point hoping that it would be easier to understand how the _grammatical system_ (_not_ the morphological system) works.: AGENT Trigger: AT-cut GEN-wood OBL-forest TRG-man "[cutting-agent] [of wood] [at forest] = [man]" lit.: "The wood's cutter in the forest is the man" transl.: "The man, he cut some wood in the forest" PATIENT Trigger: PT-cut GEN-man OBL-forest TRG-wood "[cutting-patient] [of man] [at forest] = [wood]" lit.: "The man's cutting-patient in the forest is the wood" transl.: "The wood, the man cut it in the forest" LOCATION Trigger: LT-cut GEN-man GEN-wood TRG-forest "[cutting-location] [of man] [of wood] = [forest]" lit.:"The man's cutting-location of wood is the forest" transl.: "The forest, the man cut some wood in it" Note how I have nominalized the verbs in the transcription. Thus, the verb for cutting has been nominalized as an agent, a patient, or a location depending on what role the trigger plays. There are other verbal trigger forms too including benefactor and instrument. My own theory is that trigger languages only have one core argument. Such being the case, trigger languages resort to nominalizing verbs. This might also explain why passive constructions do not exist in trigger languages since the valency of the verb is not changed (cannot change) with different triggers. Now for a real world example like Tagalog. The sentence, "I bought rice at the store" can be translated three ways in Tagalog depending on what argument plays the trigger. In Tagalog, the verb for "buying" is <bili>. The following affixes are used in the perfective aspect: by adding the infix <-um->, the verb is nominalized as an agent <bumili>; by adding the infix <-in-> the verb is nominalized as a patient <binili>; and by using the suffix <-han> together witht the <-in-> infix it becomes a location. Note that the word for store itself has the <-han> suffix <tindahan> "selling-place": AGENT Trigger: <bumili ako ng bigas sa tindahan> AT-buy TRG-1 GEN rice OBL selling-place lit.: "I was the buyer of rice at the store" "I bought rice at the store" PATIENT Trigger: <binili ko sa tindahan ang bigas> PT-buy GEN-1 OBL selling-place TRG rice lit.: "The rice was my buy at the store" "The rice, I bought it at the store" LOCATION Trigger: <binilhan ko ng bigas ang tindahan> LT-buy GEN-1 GEN rice TRG selling-place lit.: "The store was my buying-place of rice" "The store, I bought rice there" I hope it has been at least a bit helpful. -Kristian- 8-)