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Polysynthesis for Novices
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Author:  Whimemsz [ Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Noun incorporation is not a difficult concept. It's just noun-verb compounding (of either order: NV or VN, depending on the language) with the resulting word being a verb. That's all noun incorporation is, at its most basic level. All the other info I gave on it is the little details about how it normally works, and different uses of the process.

(So, yes, that latter example looks clearly like noun incorporation (though I know nothing about Japanese)).

dhokarena56 wrote:
What other polylangs have case?

You'd need to define what you mean by "case" here before we can go any further. I'm guessing you probably just mean case-marking specifically on nouns, but I don't know how many cases you're asking about -- like, would a language with only two cases still be of interest?

Author:  Risla [ Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

You talked about how languages can develop polysynthesis, but I'm more interested right now in how a polysynthetic language can lose its synthesis and become more isolating. Could you direct me to any resources on that?

Author:  TaylorS [ Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Whimemsz wrote:
[size=150]8 - How Does Polysynthesis Arise?


That article on French just blew my mind, thanks!

Author:  dhok [ Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Whimemsz wrote:
Noun incorporation is not a difficult concept. It's just noun-verb compounding (of either order: NV or VN, depending on the language) with the resulting word being a verb. That's all noun incorporation is, at its most basic level. All the other info I gave on it is the little details about how it normally works, and different uses of the process.

(So, yes, that latter example looks clearly like noun incorporation (though I know nothing about Japanese)).

dhokarena56 wrote:
What other polylangs have case?

You'd need to define what you mean by "case" here before we can go any further. I'm guessing you probably just mean case-marking specifically on nouns, but I don't know how many cases you're asking about -- like, would a language with only two cases still be of interest?



Correct, a polylang with nouns that are specifically marked for case. Two would still be of interest, but not as much as three or more.

Author:  chris_notts [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

dhokarena56 wrote:
What other polylangs have case? You mentioned several of California and the Plateau region, and I know the Eskaleut languages have case (certainly the Yupik and Inuit branches, and whatever the hell Aleut has that looks like case). Anywhere else?


Yimas (spoken in Papuan New Guinea) may qualify and has a single overt case marker for oblique (i.e. non subject/patient) noun phrases. Other Papuan languages may also qualify, although according to Foley the common pattern is to only use case for obliques - actor and patient are often just differentiated by context, verbal agreement, switch reference markers etc.

Author:  Radius Solis [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 4:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Risla wrote:
You talked about how languages can develop polysynthesis, but I'm more interested right now in how a polysynthetic language can lose its synthesis and become more isolating. Could you direct me to any resources on that?


The usual way is simply sound changes that delete grammatical material - for any language, not just polylangs. English lost its noun cases and most of its verbal inflection paradigm by sound changes that were part of a long-term trend of losing material located later than the word's stressed syllable. For an example of a Salishan language undergoing something similar, see this fascinating post on Language Log. The language is now dying, but if it had another two centuries of life left there would likely be some syntactic changes to compensate for the loss of grammatical marking. Use of oblique nouns to compensate for the loss of lexical suffixes, grammaticalization of new material, perhaps other things.

Another possible way is creolization. Read up on Chinook Jargon for what's probably our best example of a North American creole; it's much more analytic than any of its source languages.

Author:  Legion [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 5:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

TaylorS wrote:
Whimemsz wrote:
[size=150]8 - How Does Polysynthesis Arise?


That article on French just blew my mind, thanks!


I've said it before, but the main obstacle to analyse French as polysynthetic is that it doesn't satisfy the "morphological visibility constraint". Not only all arguments are not marked on the verbs, but in fact, modern colloquial European French has even a tendency to drop clitics that would be considered obligatory in literary French: "je vais le lui donner" often just becomes "je vais lui donner", with the direct object entirely unmarked, simply implied by the verb (donner = to give). In some instance this can go further to "vais lui donner", with dropping of the subject clitic as well (though in this case the verb does have a separate, audible inflection for 1sg, but that would work with a less marked verb: "viens d'lui donner" = "(I) just gave (it) to him/her").

When you get into imperatives, even literary French is not shy of things like "Donne !" for "Donne-le-moi !" ("give it to me!").

Author:  Ars Lande [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Quote:
I've said it before, but the main obstacle to analyse French as polysynthetic is that it doesn't satisfy the "morphological visibility constraint". Not only all arguments are not marked on the verbs, but in fact, modern colloquial European French has even a tendency to drop clitics that would be considered obligatory in literary French: "je vais le lui donner" often just becomes "je vais lui donner", with the direct object entirely unmarked, simply implied by the verb (donner = to give). In some instance this can go further to "vais lui donner", with dropping of the subject clitic as well (though in this case the verb does have a separate, audible inflection for 1sg, but that would work with a less marked verb: "viens d'lui donner" = "(I) just gave (it) to him/her").

When you get into imperatives, even literary French is not shy of things like "Donne !" for "Donne-le-moi !" ("give it to me!").


I'll be happy to defer to you on that topic since (I believe) you have formal training in French linguistics, and I haven't.

I don't believe the analysis of spoken French as polysynthetic either - though I'm having a lot of fun deriving a polysynthetic language from French, but there are a few things I disagree with in your analysis.

The "je vais le lui donner" > "je vais lui donner" change is almost systematic, however I wonder if that wouldn't be a case of phonemic reduction.
(The schwa in le ought to be dropped, leading to something like [llɥi]. It doesn't seem unreasonable that it would get further reduced to [lɥi].
The similar construction je vais te le donner (substituting a second person to a third person) cannot, however be reduced to *je vais te donner

vais lui donner et viens de lui donner sound ungrammatical to me. I'll try and pay attention, maybe I'll hear it used.
I'll argue that Donne ! is more a literary French construction than a spoken one.

The one thing that would prevent an analysis of French as polysynthetic is that head-marking constructions such as (a) 'Le livre, je te l'ai donné' happily coexist with boring ones such as (b) Je t'ai donné le livre (I believe this is the point of the article Whimemsz links to, which I haven't read in full yet)

(In my conlang, I posited a series of changes that turn (b) into a single verb, with livre as an incorporated nominal)

Author:  WeepingElf [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Radius Solis wrote:
Risla wrote:
You talked about how languages can develop polysynthesis, but I'm more interested right now in how a polysynthetic language can lose its synthesis and become more isolating. Could you direct me to any resources on that?


The usual way is simply sound changes that delete grammatical material - for any language, not just polylangs.


Right. Vohpenonomae thinks that polysynthetic languages get morphophonemically "locked" and never lose their polysynthetic traits, but I don't think so. Radius Solis is right here.

Author:  Bob Johnson [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:35 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Radius Solis wrote:
Risla wrote:
You talked about how languages can develop polysynthesis, but I'm more interested right now in how a polysynthetic language can lose its synthesis and become more isolating. Could you direct me to any resources on that?
The usual way is simply sound changes that delete grammatical material - for any language, not just polylangs.
Yes- I don't see why polysynthetics would be any different. It certainly happens; in Tlingit, the Na-Dene verb classifier is so reduced as to be opaque, almost fossilized. For a conlang, regular sound changes would easily be plausible enough to explain this.

Author:  Whimemsz [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

dhokarena56 wrote:
What other polylangs have case? You mentioned several of California and the Plateau region, and I know the Eskaleut languages have case (certainly the Yupik and Inuit branches, and whatever the hell Aleut has that looks like case). Anywhere else?

I forgot to also ask if you just wanted languages that at least included marking of core cases, and not just obliques like instrumentals and locatives, but I'm going to assume you meant core cases. AND I'm going to assume you want systems where the case-marking is via affixes rather than clitics which don't necessarily bind to the noun. So, with that in mind, one other area is the Southeastern US: Muskogean languages, Natchez, and Tonkawa. Yuman languages (Southwestern US) also have case-marking, though it's via enclitics attached to the whole NP. A few Amazonian languages also have case marking: Panoan languages, Cahuapanan languages, Jivaroan languages, Harakmbet, the Yanomami family, etc. I don't know as much about polysynthesis from other areas of the world.

Author:  Legion [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Ars Lande wrote:
The "je vais le lui donner" > "je vais lui donner" change is almost systematic, however I wonder if that wouldn't be a case of phonemic reduction.
(The schwa in le ought to be dropped, leading to something like [llɥi]. It doesn't seem unreasonable that it would get further reduced to [lɥi].
The similar construction je vais te le donner (substituting a second person to a third person) cannot, however be reduced to *je vais te donner


This is probably the historical reason, but there is some analogical extention: you can also simplify "je vais la lui donner" to "je vais lui donner", without phonological justification here. I think it doesn't extend to ditransitive verbs with a non 3rd-person recipient because in those case the order of the direct object and recipient clitics are inverted, thus making an analogy less likely.

Though I realise there are also cases of direct object dropping outside of ditransitive verbs, very common sentences like "Mozart, j'aime" (for literary "Mozart, je l'aime") or "Il est venu hier, je sais" (literary "je le sais").

Quote:
vais lui donner et viens de lui donner sound ungrammatical to me. I'll try and pay attention, maybe I'll hear it used.


It's only in fairly coloquial speech, and also the kind of gap the mind is likely to easily correct.

Quote:
I'll argue that Donne ! is more a literary French construction than a spoken one.


I'm not quite sure of that, I'm fairly certain sentences like "fais voir" "let (me) see (it)" or "mange!" "eat (it)" occure frequently in speech.

In general French doesn't seem to have much problem with having unmarked null object. Would a polysynthetic language still be able to construct sentence like French "je mange"/English "I'm eating", with an unambiguously transitive verb but an omitted direct object (the implication of this omission varying depending on the verb, the arguments, and the language)?

Author:  Radius Solis [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

WeepingElf wrote:
Right. Vohpenonomae thinks that polysynthetic languages get morphophonemically "locked" and never lose their polysynthetic traits, but I don't think so. Radius Solis is right here.

Well, for whatever it's worth, languages can be quite resistant to losing important grammatical information too. The Semitic languages are a notable example, having retained their triliteral root system despite millennia of sound changes, by means of analogical leveling. The aforelinked article on Montana Salish displays some of this too, in that speakers remained able to use suffixes that should have been truncated by the rule.

Of course this is not the same as "locking", which probably doesn't exist. To the extent that some polysynthetic languages have very stable morphological systems, it can easily be attributed to the combination of analogical reinforcement with areal pressure.

Author:  chris_notts [ Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Whimemsz wrote:
I forgot to also ask if you just wanted languages that at least included marking of core cases, and not just obliques like instrumentals and locatives, but I'm going to assume you meant core cases. AND I'm going to assume you want systems where the case-marking is via affixes rather than clitics which don't necessarily bind to the noun. So, with that in mind, one other area is the Southeastern US: Muskogean languages, Natchez, and Tonkawa. Yuman languages (Southwestern US) also have case-marking, though it's via enclitics attached to the whole NP. A few Amazonian languages also have case marking: Panoan languages, Cahuapanan languages, Jivaroan languages, Harakmbet, the Yanomami family, etc. I don't know as much about polysynthesis from other areas of the world.


Tariana might count as polysynthetic, although a lot of its "morphology" is actually made up of floating clitics rather than true affixes.

It has marking of core cases, but it's mixed up with pragmatics. For example, -nuku marks topical objects (and other non-actors) only. A non-topical object, which is more typical, doesn't have any overt case marker. Similarly, IIRC non-topical subjects are marked with the instrumental. I'll check the details in my copy of Aikhenvald's grammar later.

Author:  Ars Lande [ Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Quote:
Quote:
I'll argue that Donne ! is more a literary French construction than a spoken one.


I'm not quite sure of that, I'm fairly certain sentences like "fais voir" "let (me) see (it)" or "mange!" "eat (it)" occure frequently in speech.


No, I was wrong about that one. The construction does exist, and it's rather common. The odd thing is that it cannot be applied to any verb.
For instance: Donne-le-moi (give it to me) :> Donne, but Rends le moi (Give it back to me) :> *Rends. I believe. But I digress.

Author:  Gojera [ Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Bristel wrote:
I have two examples in Japanese, is the latter noun incorporation? It wouldn't be polysynthetic, I'm just trying to learn more about NI.

目が覚める me ga sameru (to open the eyes, to awaken)
目覚める mezameru (to eye-open, to awaken) [this has dakuten sound changes]


Johanna Mattissen has an interesting discussion of Japanese in her article "A structural typology of polysynthesis". IIRC, she says there that Japanese has highly productive noun incorporation, but only with one verb (する). I'm not sure I buy that yet.

"Mezameru" looks like NI to me, with rendaku it's clearly morphologically one word.

Author:  Bristel [ Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Gojera wrote:
Bristel wrote:
I have two examples in Japanese, is the latter noun incorporation? It wouldn't be polysynthetic, I'm just trying to learn more about NI.

目が覚める me ga sameru (to open the eyes, to awaken)
目覚める mezameru (to eye-open, to awaken) [this has dakuten sound changes]


Johanna Mattissen has an interesting discussion of Japanese in her article "A structural typology of polysynthesis". IIRC, she says there that Japanese has highly productive noun incorporation, but only with one verb (する). I'm not sure I buy that yet.

"Mezameru" looks like NI to me, with rendaku it's clearly morphologically one word.


I'm surprised that I remembered this example... I think I realized it was noun incorporation when I was listening to a song called "My Will", which the opening line is "sotto mezameru".

Author:  Radagast revived [ Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

This is an amazing job you're doing Whimemsz - great.

As for languages becoming less polysynthetic that is a focus of study in Latin America where many languages gradually loose compex morphology and osyntactic traits associated with polysynthesis. Nahuatl is one language that has frequently been claimed to either have lost or be in the process of becoming analytic.

This article discusses some of these claims based on evidence from one Nahuatl variety.

Author:  Ser [ Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Legion wrote:
Though I realise there are also cases of direct object dropping outside of ditransitive verbs, very common sentences like "Mozart, j'aime" (for literary "Mozart, je l'aime") or "Il est venu hier, je sais" (literary "je le sais").
Out of curiosity why do you analyze these are direct object dropping? Is "if a COD, it should reappear with a pronoun in the verb" an actual rule?

And I know this one's much harder to give an answer to, but are things such as "[COD], j'aime" unattested in older French?
Quote:
I'm not quite sure of that, I'm fairly certain sentences like "fais voir" "let (me) see (it)" or "mange!" "eat (it)" occure frequently in speech.
What if these imperatives are more about the actions though? The first one as in, "act in order to let the act of seeing possible!"; or "eat!" as in "start the act of eating", I mean... In Spanish (or at least in my dialect of it), you can say dejá ver and ¡comé! too, and that's more or less the sense I feel I'm giving. I don't feel there's a direct object missing, it's all about the action as it is.

Author:  chris_notts [ Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Radagast revived wrote:


Radagast is back! Did you write that article? I remember you doing work on similar things at one point.

Author:  Xephyr [ Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

chris_notts wrote:
Radagast revived wrote:


Radagast is back! Did you write that article? I remember you doing work on similar things at one point.


The way you say that makes it sound like you have access to "Anthropological Linguistics", chris... *Ahem, ahem*...

Author:  chris_notts [ Sun Apr 08, 2012 5:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Xephyr wrote:
chris_notts wrote:
Radagast revived wrote:


Radagast is back! Did you write that article? I remember you doing work on similar things at one point.


The way you say that makes it sound like you have access to "Anthropological Linguistics", chris... *Ahem, ahem*...


I'm afraid not. I just read the abstract. I wish I did have access, but as I'm not affiliated with a university getting access is expensive.

Author:  Legion [ Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Serafín wrote:
Legion wrote:
Though I realise there are also cases of direct object dropping outside of ditransitive verbs, very common sentences like "Mozart, j'aime" (for literary "Mozart, je l'aime") or "Il est venu hier, je sais" (literary "je le sais").
Out of curiosity why do you analyze these are direct object dropping? Is "if a COD, it should reappear with a pronoun in the verb" an actual rule?


Well, you have the basic sentence structure of French, so say: "Marie aime Mozart".

Then you have the so called "dislocations", where an argument of the verb is moved around, and ends up removed from the verb position. When this happens, the rule is that whatever element has been removed must be replaced by a personal clitic on the verb, so:

"Marie aime Mozart" > "Elle aime Mozart, Marie"; "Mozart, Marie l'aime"; "Marie, Mozart, elle l'aime".

This can even happen with no apparent movement: "Marie, elle l'aime, Mozart" (audible pause at each comma).

This is often used as a strong argument to describe French as polysynthetic. But in modern, colloquial French, the use of personal clitic for a dislocated 3rd person COD has considerably weakened. This may have phonetic origin (sound change), but extented by analogy to situation where's there's no phonetic justification for dropping the clitic, effectively posing problem for an analysis of French as polysynthetic.

Quote:
And I know this one's much harder to give an answer to, but are things such as "[COD], j'aime" unattested in older French?


Honestly, I don't know, though what I have read tend to imply it is a recent construction.


Quote:
Quote:
I'm not quite sure of that, I'm fairly certain sentences like "fais voir" "let (me) see (it)" or "mange!" "eat (it)" occure frequently in speech.
What if these imperatives are more about the actions though? The first one as in, "act in order to let the act of seeing possible!"; or "eat!" as in "start the act of eating", I mean... In Spanish (or at least in my dialect of it), you can say dejá ver and ¡comé! too, and that's more or less the sense I feel I'm giving. I don't feel there's a direct object missing, it's all about the action as it is.



Well this depends how we analyse those verbs and what polysynthetic languages can do, which is like I like Whimemsz to tell us: can polysynthetic languages have transitive verbs with null object, used as a generic statement like in Indo-European languages (eg "He's eating" vs "He's eating chicken")?

Author:  Radagast revived [ Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

chris_notts wrote:
Xephyr wrote:
chris_notts wrote:
Radagast revived wrote:


Radagast is back! Did you write that article? I remember you doing work on similar things at one point.


The way you say that makes it sound like you have access to "Anthropological Linguistics", chris... *Ahem, ahem*...


I'm afraid not. I just read the abstract. I wish I did have access, but as I'm not affiliated with a university getting access is expensive.



Yes, I did. You can also find a preprint here. I just came back to see what was going on and I found this amazing thread by whimesz so I thought I'd do some shameless plugging.

Author:  chris_notts [ Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthesis for Novices

Legion wrote:
Well this depends how we analyse those verbs and what polysynthetic languages can do, which is like I like Whimemsz to tell us: can polysynthetic languages have transitive verbs with null object, used as a generic statement like in Indo-European languages (eg "He's eating" vs "He's eating chicken")?


I personally don't see any reason that polysynthetic languages can't have ambitransitive verb roots. What reason is there to think that languages with a lot of verbal morphology must only have transitivity alternations via overt derivation?

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