Salmoneus wrote:- Austronesian vs Philippine
I kind of
knew this. But, as you know, my specialism is IE languages: with Telpahke I wasn't aiming for anything Austronesian-esque at all, so I haven't really done much reading on the topic!
Yeah; my concern here was just to remind everybody that the Philippines exist in a context. A lot of conlangers have vaguely heard of 'Austronesian alignment', and think of it as being the most extreme forms found in the Philippines, without realising that that's the far end of a continuum.
"Case 2" is actually a merger of three distinct cases in Telpahke's parent language: the accusative, the genitive and the postpositional.
Ah, OK. One of those things that don't seem to make sense because it's just a random merger. I suspect that over time the language would regularise to something more normal, but there's no reason 'over time' couldn't take a long time...
For context, Telpahke's parent language was a fairly unexceptional accusative language with a fairly high degree of inflection. Finite verbs indicated two tenses and had active and passive participles in both tenses. However, soundchange eliminated tense distinctions on finite verbs and Telpahke started making use of participle constructions to mark tense (analogous to the rise of split ergativity in Indo-Aryan languages).
Yeah, the participle route seems like such a fasttrack to typological oddities that it's surprising it doesn't happen in reality more often.
Austronesian, FWIW, certainly seems to have had some part-of-speech issues early on - it's debated whethere PAn even distinguished nouns and verbs. The markers for benefactive and locative focus on verbs in the Philippines, for instance, have ended up attached to nouns in the other languages. And there are indications things grew out of a more complex construction originally (like, the fact that there is no unmarked voice!).
In particular, one voice in Austronesian also serves to indicate the perfective - in some languages, this is a connotation, in others it's a requirement, and in others it's become the sole meaning of the affix. It may be that this construction began as, say, a perfective participle that secondarily came to mark the passive.
Sod it. This could be down to me miscommunicating: what I mean to say here is that the "Case 1" argument is the "emphasised" one (please, do not read too narrow a linguistic definition into my use of that word, I mean it in an everyday sense). Not that it's massively helpful, I guess, but in a Celtic language it's the constituent that I would emphasise by left-dislocation. Whether this is focus, topic or quite what I'm unsure.
Yeah, topic/focus confuses me too. I think the easiest way to think about it, ignoring terminology, is in terms of foreground and background information - which part is assumed to be familiar, and which part is presumed to be surprising? Humans seem to generally tell new information in the form of information about familiar things, so sentences are usually "about" known things grammatically/narratively (subjects, topics, definites), even though the actual content of the sentence, the purpose of it, usually emphasises new information (objects, focuses, indefinites). "She's cooking fish!" is presented as a fact about
her, even though the important new information is the 'fish' bit (or the 'cooking').
Come to think of it, that would be a key assumption to explore for anyone who wanted to make a genuinely non-human language...
This is reassuring. I thought that the split intransitivity was the weirdest bit and I was just getting carried away.
Yeah, I think you're good there. I don't know enough to be able to say if it's exactly normal
, but it's something that makes sense and probably wouldn't shock any Austronesianists.
- have you given any thought to how you will handle dyadic intransitives? Are they like normal transitives, or perhaps like passive intransitives? Are you sure all your 'transitives' are actually transitive (because that could motivated voice changes)? Or are some of your intransitives actually transitives with elided arguments?
Is "dyadic intransitive" a field-specific Austronesianist term? I've not come across it before.
Good question. I don't know. I think it's probably ordinary words, used in a way that's less relevent in other families. "Dyadic" here just means "having two arguments", so it's basically the same as "bivalent" (don't yell at me, people who know about a tiny technical difference between the two terms!).
Often in Austronesian, transitivity
is a big issue - and the things related to it, like agenthood and patienthood. As a result, many languages have ways of showing that a syntactically bivalent
verb is semantically intransitive
. These are dyadic or bivalent intransitives. They have one argument that is typically treated as S, but a second argument that doesn't qualify as either A or O (it's called E instead). This may be shown on the verb, or on the noun, syntactically, or wherever.
Lack of control and volition, for instance, may in some languages make something not an agent, and hence the sentence intransitive. So we might have:
- dog eats-TRANS cat-ACC [the dog eats the cat - intentionally]
- dog eats-TRANS [the dog eats... something, left to context or syntax]
- cat squashes elephant-ERG [the elephant squashed the cat - unintentionally]
- cat squashes [the cat is squashed by something]
Or, the object can fail to be a proper patient. One way to do that is for the verb to 'fail' in some way, so, eg.:
- man kicks-TRANS dog-ACC [the man kicks the dog]
- man kicks dog [the man kicks AT the dog, but doesn't make contact]
Or, the object can fail to be sufficiently specific and individual - "man eat fish" might mean 'the man eats fish', while "man eat-TRANS fish" might mean "the man eats THE fish".
Or, the intransitivity may be inherent to the verb, if the verb refers to an event that does not actually 'affect' the 'patient'. In English, examples include:
- "I see you"
- "The Earth orbits the Sun"
- "I warned you!"
- "the ballerina supplied the Ostrogoth with drugs"
- "A precedes B"
All of these could, in some language, be treated as bivalent intransitives.
And this can have implications for word order and alignment. For instance, once analysis of the Philippine languages (though not the only one!) is that "active voice" verbs are actually intransitives, and in many situations they act like dyadic intransitives in terms of their syntax (plus, most canonical monodic intransitives are indeed marked as active). So (using more morphology than is necessary, to make a point), we might have:
women-S hurl-3.pl.fem-PASS Wilberforce-A...... [Wilberforce hurls the women]
Wilberforce-S hurl-3.pl.masc-ACT women-E.... [Wilberforce hurls women]
And so on. So many possibilities!
Oh, and looking this up, apparently there is at least some split intransitivity in Proto-Malayo-Polynesian. Because although most 'monodic intransitives' are marked with the active voice, there's a class of 'adversative passives', which are syntactically monodic but marked with the passive. These relate to the subject being afflicted in some way. So, "rain" > "be rained on", "termite" > "be eaten away by termites".