Continuing the morphology and syntax discussion

Richard RHODES rrhodes at BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Nov 1 22:47:18 UTC 2012

Charles (and everyone listening in), 

 I think the hardcore linguists
are concerned about just how much this discussion will be "inside

 To whit, Julie presented a wonderful paper on the relevance
of sentience in the formation of Innu intransitive verbs. 

 The general
background is this: everyone knows that the class of "natural" animates are
those things that are or appear to be capable of moving under their own
power. Hence, cars, trains, and big boats. (These are opposed to words that
are purely grammatical animates, like trees and blackberries, tobacco and
pipes, and the like.) For some time, people have been observing that there
are syntactic restrictions on grammatical animates that are not "natural"
animates. So many languages have restrictions on straightforward
translations of clauses like: 

The tree fell on the house. 

Words that
are not "natural" animates are banned (or at least greatly dispreferred) as
the subjects of TI's. (If any of the native speakers out there find such
clauses OK in their language, I'd sure like to know.) 

Trickier are
sentences like: 

The car ran into the tree. 

Most of my consultants in
Ottawa find such sentences completely ungrammatical, or at the least very
weird. But no one has worked much on the problem. 

So that brings us to
Julie's paper. She argued from features of II verb derivation that there is
a three distinction in animacy. She called the most animate entities
_sentient_. Those that are capable of some kinds of self-action, but not of
awareness (my terms, not hers) _teleological_. (The view is more nuanced,
but this will do for now.) And all the rest are _inanimate_. At that point,
some of us would have said she had a paper and could have walked away.

But, of course, she didn't. Julie wants to do more. So she spent a good
deal of her paper talking about the mechanics of placing the relevant part
of verb structure in a particular place in the pre-fab structure dictated
by the approach to syntax she ascribes to. 

Phil Lesourd and I asked
whether seeking a structural solution was the right way to go. 

question was based on the English example which was provably semantic, not
structural. Phil's question was more general. 

But the whole discussion
got bogged down. Julie seemed to be saying that there's great value in UG
-- which neither Phil nor I believe -- and that's as far as it got. 



On Wed, 31 Oct 2012 11:25:28 -0400, Charles Bishop wrote:
Hi Richard, Sorry that I couldn't be at this year's AC. What was Julie's
point? Charles 
  On Oct 30, 2012, at 4:07 PM, Richard RHODES wrote:


I'm just putting out a feeler to see if there is interest in
continuing the syntax morphology discussion online. 

It seemed like Julie
Brittain's paper on Sunday morning put us right in the middle of it again,
but half of the folks were already gone by then. 

Let me know if it's
worth talking in this venue. 


Rich Rhodes 

Richard A. Rhodes

Department of Linguistics
 1203 Dwinelle Hall #2650
 University of
 Berkeley, 94720 

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