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zompist bboard • View topic - Polysynthesis for Novices

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:57 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:29 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:38 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:48 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:01 pm 
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Well, it boils down to definition of polysynthesis. For Baker Polysynthesis is something a language is or isn't - and because he takes this definition he can posit non-tautological consequences - such as specific predictions about quantifiers, word order and clause types. The problem with his definiton is that many prototypically polysynthetic languages fall outside of his definition - such as Greenlandic.

I think that the kinds of languages characterized by the kind of polysynthesis defined by Baker as TEH polysynthesis (I would prefer a term like obligatorily syntactically headmarking or indexing) by necessity do have a much stricter separation of intransitive and transitive roots - and consequently few ambitransitives. So few that you can always argue that they are basically just homophones (I think some formalists would prefer that kind of argument).


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:42 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:19 am 
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The traits he posits as following from polysynthesis (which is a requirement of marking of arguments of phrases on phrasal heads by agreement morphemes or compounding) are - non-configurationality (free word order, allowing disjunct phrases), valency reducing incorporation, no "true" quantifiers, no NP arguments (they're adjuncts). And a couple of more corollaries to those ones that I don't remember off the top of my head.

Except for the notion that this is a 'parameter', I think there seems to be something about his argument that is right. Languages like Nahuatl and Mohawk do seem to have a basic requirement that all direct arguments must be indexed on the phrasal head in some way. And I think that the general syntactic freedom that they also exhibit follows logically from that, as does syntactic incorporation. In Nahuatl and I think in Mohawk there is definitely a difference between a zero agreement morpheme and a lack of agreement. Zero morphemes are in paradigmatic relations with non-zero morphemes and they can be referred back to by anaphora for example.

Baker was exceptional in being a Chomskyan who started studying a language that was actually different - Mohawk. Then he realized that this was truly different from English syntax and posed challenges for the generative framework and he developed a way to analyze that within the generative framework - but then in true Chomskyan fashion he went on to overextend his definitions to a large group of languages that he had not studied in detail - and in doing so making the concept of polysynthesis near meaningless.

I think his description reasonably captures a very important aspect of syntax in Mohawk and Nahuatl. I don't think it is a good definition of polysynthesis.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:44 am 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:37 pm 
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Last edited by Radagast revived on Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:58 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:17 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:33 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:09 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:20 pm 
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"Eskimoan languages, for example, lack noun incorporation under most definitions, but they're highly polysynthetic"
Really? I'm somewhat familiar with Inuktitut, and I think it actually does incorporate nouns into it's verbs. For example:
ᐲᑕ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᒪᕆ ᐃᓪᓗᒨᖅᖃᐅᔪᓯᒃ
IPA: piː'ta amːa'lu ma'ri ilːumuːqːaudʒu'sit
(Piita and Mari House-OBJ/go.toPAST-SEMI-IMED/SUBJ-3p.du. [I think, I'm terrible at glossing])
Piita and Mari went to the house.
In this example, "House" gets shoved into "go to" so that one word can mean "the two of them go to the house." and stand on it's own as a sentence. Unless I'm not as familiar with Inuktitut as I think, or that doesn't count as noun incorporation.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:59 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:43 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:38 pm 
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Huh. I didn't know that. Thanks, Vuvgangujunga, I edited the first post accordingly.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:46 pm 
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What are some ways in which polysynthetic languages typically form dependent clauses as opposed to independent ones? Vohpenonomae said that some of the languages he studied drew no distinction between independent clauses and relative ones. He really commented on adverbial clauses or anything like that as far as I can recall. I have read that some polysynthetic languages, at least, have entirely separate verb paradigms for different kinds of clauses.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:28 pm 
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Sure. Here are some of the dependent moods from Nunavik Inuktitut.

Imperfective a.k.a. Conditional:

aullaruma "if I leave; when I leave"
utaqqigukkit "if I wait for them; when [future] I wait for them"
aullaruvit aliasulaaqtunga "if you leave or when you leave, I'll be glad"

Dubitative:

aullalaarmangaarma "whether I shall leave"
takummangaaqpiuk "whether you see him/her"
nalujunga qanga aullalaurmangaaqpit "I didn't know when you left"

Perfective Appositional:

tusaaqsunga aliasuttunga "while hearing, I am glad"
ikajuqsugu aliasuttuq "while helping him/her, he/she is glad"

Imperfective Appositional:

tusarlunga aliasulaartunga "while hearing, I shall be glad"
ikajurlugu aliasulaaqtuq "while helping him/her, he/she will be glad"

Negative Appositional:

tusarnanga aliasunngitunga "while not hearing, I am not glad"
ikajurnagu aliasunngituq "while not helping him/her, he/she is not glad"
takutinnak aliasuttut "while you are not seeing, they are glad"

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:48 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 6:57 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 8:48 pm 
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Ainu probably isn't the most polysynthetic language in the world. But it handles relative clauses in much the same way Japanese does. Japanese, of course, is a dependent-marking, strongly head-final language: the verb comes at the end of a clause, and a verb that precedes a noun forms a relative clause describing that noun. So yama ga noboritagatteiru otoko "the man that wants to climb the mountain". Ainu does things similarly. So compare:

a-maci
1SG-wife
"my wife"

e-kor mat
2SG-have wife
"the wife that you have"


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:49 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 5:20 am 
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Location: tʰæ.ɹʷˠə.ˈgɜʉ̯.nɜ kʰæ.tə.ˈlɜʉ̯.nʲɜ spɛ̝ɪ̯n ˈjʏː.ɹəʔp
I've now read through Whimemsz work; well done, that's given me something to read again and again. :)

I didn't understand all of it, but what I did understand fascinated me. Now I'll go through this thread with some (little) idea about what is being said. :-D

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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 3:49 pm 
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