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Re: Trigger languages

From:R A Brown <ray@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 11:00
Jim Henry wrote:
> On Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 8:01 PM, Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...> wrote: >> On Mon, Mar 17, 2008 at 7:44 PM, Campbell Nilsen <cactus95@...> wrote: >> > Could anybody explain to me how trigger languages work? I don't understand them. >> >> There's an explaination, mostly by Carsten [B]ecker, >> in the Conlang Wikibook: >> >> > > but see also David J. Peterson's comments on the Talk page: > >
Quite so - I agree whole-heartedly with David's opening sentence "Not meaning to rock the boat, but trigger systems, as they're explained here, don't actually exist in natural languages." Indeed, I am in complete agreement with the whole of David's comments on that page. So it depends on whether Campbell was asking (a) 'Could anybody explain to me how trigger [conlangs] languages work?' or (b) 'Could anybody explain to me how trigger [natlangs] languages work?' If (a) is intended, read David's comments from "The notion of the 'trigger' language, then, is something exclusive to conlangs" onwards; also take a look at Carsten's Ayeri conlang. If (b) is intended then IMO no such animal exists. IMO the entry in the is at best mistaken and at worst quite misleading. IMO the Austronesian languages like Tagalog have nothing to do with what is described on that page; and the sentence "What the sentence is about (the emphasis so to speak) is lexicalized, although still pragmatic -- This is called the trigger, focus or topic of a sentence" seems to me to confuse 'topic' and 'focus' (though it has to be admitted that 'focus' is not used the same way in all linguistic literature). Personally, I am sure David is correct when he writes: "The trigger systems of Austronesia don't actually seem to be anything more than languages with multiple passive formation and applicativization strategies" - Amen. A trigger is simply: "Any element in a sentence which makes some requirement elsewhere in the sentence" [Trask]. For example, the subject form "I" triggers 'am' in "I am going", whereas "You" triggers 'are' in "You are going." So in consider the English sentence "I ate the hamburger." If we want to topicalize _hamburger_, we make it the subject and this triggers a passive verb, thus: "The hamburger was eaten [by me]." It's just that, as David (correctly IMO) observes, the Austronesian languages have more passive forms and applicatives strategies than Indo-European languages normally have. This has been discussed several times before on Conlang and a look in the archives would, I think, prove profitable. -- Ray ================================== ================================== Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora. [William of Ockham]


Carsten Becker <carbeck@...>
Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>