Continuing the morphology and syntax discussion

Conor Quinn conor.mcdonoughquinn at MAINE.EDU
Fri Nov 2 15:01:17 UTC 2012


Dia dhaoibh, a chairde!

This grammatical liberty is something I'm a great big fan of.  I've seen a
decent number of cases of it in Penobscot and Passamaquoddy-Maliseet, and
more recently in Mi'gmaq (Mi'kmaw), and these examples from Bernie are
nothing short of fantastic.

It also highlights how the application of many of the grammatical tools in
these languages seems very often to be a matter of perspectival choice on
the part of the speaker.  This is not limited to the animacy system---use
of the past/preterite morphology is also the same way: everyone in the
Northeast seems to love what in English terms would be called a narrative
present.  And this seems to basically be the result of often shifting the
perspective to the past time, such that the preterite isn't needed.  The
use of the absentative too is heavily, heavily influenced by these factors:
I don't think it can be understood at all without including the speaker's
choice of perspective in the mix.  And of course the direct-inverse and
obviation systems seem to be in large part all about one's
perspective-representational choices.

The nice thing is that this doesn't mean everything is loosey-goosey
anything-goes-y.  I may be wrong, but I do think speakers have perfectly
precise senses of what their system's tools do, and if they seem fuzzy,
that's the fuzziness of the linguistic analyst's current understanding
talking.  One important consequence of this is that a lot of our
traditional, somewhat simplistic ways of testing out speakers'
understandings of the system won't work very well.  To oversimplify it a
bit, it mostly means that we can't get much understanding from asking "Hey,
can you say this or not?" but we might get more from asking "So, what
does/would/could it mean when you say it THIS way?"

Slán,
bhur gcara

On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 8:35 AM, Bernie Francis <plnal at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Firstly, HELLO DANIELLE!!! Long time no hear. Thanks for your comment
> Danielle yet as I stated, I don't know if it will help in the discussion.
> Yet, I'm happy in knowing that YOU got it.
>
> I guess we all have much to learn.
>
> Thanks again my friend and all the best to you.
>
> ber
>
> Sent from my iPad
>
> On 2012-11-02, at 10:26 AM, "Danielle E. Cyr" <dcyr at YORKU.CA> wrote:
>
> > Hi Bernie,
> >
> > Wela'lin ugjit this beautiful example of the fluidity of Mi'kmaw and the
> > speaker's freedom to customize it accordingly to his/her own perceptions.
> >
> > This "grammatical liberty" is something that non Aboriginal linguists
> often have
> > difficulty to cope with.
> >
> > Danielle Cyr
> >
> >
> > Quoting Bernie Francis <plnal at HOTMAIL.COM>:
> >
> >> Hi Richard,
> >>
> >> I wasn't planning on jumping into this but I'll throw out a couple of
> things
> >> to you re animacy/inanimacy at least in Mi'kmaw.
> >>
> >> The tree fell on the house is easily translated in Mi'kmaw as "Kmu'j
> >> eloqtesink+p wen'ji'kuomk."
> >>
> >> kmu'j = tree
> >>
> >> el = directional (that way)
> >>
> >> -oq = long shaped
> >>
> >> -tes = sudden/jerky movement
> >>
> >> -i = stative
> >>
> >> -k = animate
> >>
> >> -+p = past (plus sign represents schwa)
> >>
> >> wen'ji- = french
> >>
> >> -kuom = dwelling
> >>
> >> -k = locative
> >>
> >> The car ran into a tree. "Wutepaqn na't wen me'teskuapnn kmu'jl."
> ('ran' of
> >> course is out of character here. One would use 'to hit' or 'to bump
> into'
> >> since cars can't run) Therefore "Someone's car hit/bumped into a tree."
> >>
> >> W = 3rd per. possessive
> >>
> >> -utepaqn = car inan.
> >>
> >> na't wen = someone
> >>
> >> me'tesk = bump into
> >>
> >> -uap = past
> >>
> >> n = an.
> >>
> >> n = obv.  ('l' in Restigouche dialect)
> >>
> >> kmu'j = tree an.
> >>
> >> l = obv. an.
> >>
> >> At least in Mi'kmaw Richard, there's nothing ungrammatical about the 2nd
> >> sentence.
> >>
> >> Sometime, animacy/inanimacy is determined by distance, i.e., a bus on my
> >> reserve is inanimate because (I believe) it's walking distance to town.
> In
> >> Eskasoni a reserve which is 30 miles from Sydney, N.S., it is animate.
> Yet,
> >> my theory falls down when I realize that a motorcycle is inanimate on my
> >> reserve but animate in Eskasoni.
> >>
> >> A fridge is always animate probably because it's very important in the
> >> household whereas a TV is inanimate (or so I thought). I discovered
> later
> >> that only the box around the TV is inanimate whereas the picture tube is
> >> animate. The new flat screen TV has grammatically taken on the
> inanimacy like
> >> the older sets.
> >>
> >> Inanimate objects in Mi'kmaw can easily become animate. It is we
> Mi'kmaq who
> >> may imbue that object with a spirit causing it to become animate. We
> can do
> >> this by recreating it in some way.
> >>
> >> I don't know if I helped or made things even more complicated. In any
> event I
> >> decided to send it along for your perusal.
> >>
> >> Good luck Richard.
> >>
> >> berni francis
> >>
> >>
> >> Sent from my iPad
> >>
> >> On 2012-11-01, at 8:04 PM, "Richard RHODES" <rrhodes at BERKELEY.EDU>
> wrote:
> >>
> >>> Charles (and everyone listening in),
> >>>
> >>>    I think the hardcore linguists are concerned about just how much
> this
> >> discussion will be "inside baseball".
> >>>
> >>>    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.
> >>>
> >>> My 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.
> >>>
> >>> More later,
> >>>
> >>> Rich
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>> 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:
> >>>
> >>> Folks,
> >>>
> >>> 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.
> >>>
> >>> Cheers,
> >>>
> >>> Rich Rhodes
> >>>
> >>> Richard A. Rhodes
> >>> Department of Linguistics
> >>> 1203 Dwinelle Hall #2650
> >>> University of California
> >>> Berkeley, 94720
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >
> >
> > "The only hope we have as human beings is to learn each other's
> languages.  Only
> > then can we truly hope to understand one another."
> >
> > Professor Danielle E. Cyr
> > Department of French Studies
> > York University
> > Toronto, ON, Canada, M3J 1P3
> > Tel. 1.416.736.2100 #310180
> > FAX. 1.416.736.5924
> > dcyr at yorku.ca
>


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