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Re: Trigger languages

From:Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Date:Monday, March 24, 2008, 16:45
David Peterson wrote:
> The people who might know would be Roger Mills and/or....
> I don't know the old literature well enough to say how exactly > the term was first used. Conlangers certainly didn't invent the > term; it was first used in the literature.
Ray Brown wrote: Yep - it wasn't conlangers that invented the terms. But IMO the "trigger" explanations of Austronesian verb behavior are confusing and misleading. DP:
> The earliest article I've > read was written by Sandra Chung, and it was an RP analysis, > so it analyzed it as a kind of passive.
RB: I agree that such behavior is better explained in terms of voice and applicatives. DP:
> My understanding is that > the Conlang Trigger Language is very similar to the first analysis > of, for example, Tagalog,
RB: Was it the first analysis? I have a "Basic Tagalog" (4th edition, 1964 - the first edition was 1956); it makes no mention of 'triggers'. But it does talk of passives :) RM: There are of course early grammars of Tagalog and other PI languages by Spaniards. Heaven knows how they would have analyzed things. The "first" really organized analysis of Tagalog (by a US linguist) was by Leonard Bloomfield back in the 19-teens or twenties IIRC. I read thru it a long time ago, and am pretty sure he used the "passive(s)" terminology. More recent (1972) is the "Tagalog Reference Grammar" by Schacter and Otanes (google for that combination of names-- there seem to be several papers available in pdf); I've never seen it but doubt strongly they would have used the "trigger" term. That term seems to have arisen relatively recently (IIRC in one of our earlier discussion of this, someone cited a(the) first or at least early use of it), and AFAIK hasn't been widely accepted in the field. If I had to guess, or bet, I'd suspect someone in the SIL may have invented the term; they like to come up with distinctive terminologies....(but I'm being snide....) The idea of analyzing the various Formosan and Philippine verb systems with "passives" seems also to have fallen out of favor; most of what I've read calls them "focus" systems-- active voice now --> agent focus; passive now --> patient focus; dative/benefactive passive --> dat./ben. focus; etc. etc. Also, instrumental focus and location focus-- there may be 1 or 2 more, but that's about it. RB: But at some stage, analyses using 'trigger' terminology did occur. However, from what I have been able to gather, it would seem that not all 'trigger' explanations were the same. My feeling is the Conlang Trigger Languages developed from an attempt to make sense of these explanations. RM: That's quite likely.


R A Brown <ray@...>