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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 1:07 am 
Boardlord
Boardlord

Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2002 8:26 pm
Posts: 3376
Location: In the den
Ooh, I wish I'd had that resource on Old Chinese before. Oh well, there are always 2nd editions.

It's tricky... one thing I don't like about some of the syntax textbooks I've read is the foreign language examples! The thing is... I believe in doing syntax, not just learning a particular formalism. That means not taking things for granted, checking the evidence, learning to make and evaluate syntactic arguments. And it's very hard to do syntax on a language you don't speak natively.

So, not to pick on Carnie, but he tries to motivate some X-bar movements using data from Irish and French. But, a) how do you evaluate those if you don't know both languages well, and b) how does that prove that his analysis is correct for English?

But I hear you, and I am providing non-English examples (hopefully some really interesting ones) to show non-English syntactic data.

I have plenty of neat facts generative grammarians have found, but I can't say I have a lot of things only generative grammar can explain. I'd be happy to hear suggestions. The one area I've found GG essential for in my own conlangs is in explaining subordination (of all sorts). (In natlangs, it's hard to explain English do-support, or Mandarin pivot sentences, without it.)


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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 12:08 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:25 pm
Posts: 2261
Location: Austin, TX, USA
zompist wrote:
one thing I don't like about some of the syntax textbooks I've read is the foreign language examples!

This is actually something I don't like about a lot of linguistic data sets in general, even in homework assignments. There's no verification of the data; you're just expected to take its veracity for granted.


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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:06 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 11:46 am
Posts: 1035
Location: Réunion
That's an interesting perspective and it is a worthwhile argument. I prefer to have them though, for the exposure to details of other languages.
Maybe a way to get both would be to add information about potential further reading on the topic?


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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 1:51 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:25 pm
Posts: 2261
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Unfortunately, making sure to have reliable data is tricky, just in general. This reminds me that my dad often takes issues with Malayalam syntax examples. It's also just...lol why does one of the most popular syntax examples for Malayalam seem to be 'the kid pinched the elephant'? (Not to mention the elephant tickling the kid and the kid selling the elephant to his mom [apparently mistranslated as "Mother"]).


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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 11:53 am 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 11:46 am
Posts: 1035
Location: Réunion
Is his issue with the mistranslation or the choice of sentence or both or something else?

What does he think about 'Dog bites man?'

Mistranslating 'mother' instead of 'mom' isn't that bad, but it does change the tone, like it does in the English translation of Albert Camus' L'étranger (The Outsider), where 'maman est morte' is translated as' mother died', when it would more accurately be 'mum died'.


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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:05 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:25 pm
Posts: 2261
Location: Austin, TX, USA
His issue isn't really with that specific sentence. I just think it's weird that people use that sentence so much for some odd reason. He usually disagrees with Mohanan's grammaticality judgments.

Regarding "Mother": the issue here isn't translating it as 'Mother' vs. 'mom'; the issue was that the translation given for the sentence is 'the child sold the elephant to Mother', which is odd since what it actually means, at least according to my dad, is 'the childi sold the elephant to hisi own mother'.


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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:45 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 11:46 am
Posts: 1035
Location: Réunion
Ah so the translation makes it appear to be a character called 'Mother' rather than an actual mother? I hypothesise that this example comes from a nineteenth century grammar. Could you confirm or deny or otherwise give information relating to said hypothesis?


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 Post subject: Re: Good syntax books
PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:49 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2016 3:25 pm
Posts: 2261
Location: Austin, TX, USA
I think it's from the seventies.

EDIT: Nope, either 1982 or 1983.
EDIT2: The issue is more with the fact that it's not specified in the translation that the "mother" in the sentence has to be the kid's own mother. If it was someone else's mother (even the speaker's mother), the phrasing in Malayalam would have to be different.


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