Analytic languages and their function. (7)

Hartmut Haberland hartmut at
Tue May 30 09:15:50 UTC 2006

What about loans? Take the Greek dish called mousakás, whose name has 
been borrowed into several languages as moussaka (spelling can vary). 
(Never mind that the Greek word probably is a loan itself; cultural 
flows suggest that the word has been borrowed from Greek.) The borrowed 
form is 'actually' the genitive or accusative singular, but does this 
matter? We can consider the foreign tourist as an incipient speaker of 
Greek (although he or she never might sample more than a few words), and 
we may speculate why they picked the form (maybe they heard it in 
contexts like "I'd like one_______"), but it is or course neither 
genitive or accusative since they have no Greek inflection in their 
English, German, Danish Swedish, etc. You couldn't even say they 
reanalyzed it wrongly as a feminine noun (which would have identical 
nominative and accusative singulars). Only if one of these incipient 
speakers becomes a full-flegded learner and finally speaker of Greek and 
still uses mousaka for the nominative, you could correct them (or talk 
about a reanalysis as a feminine).

(There are loads more of examples like this with loans from inflecting 

Do I have to spell out the analogy to children's language acquisition?
Hartmut Haberland

A. Katz wrote:

>Speculation about what beginning speakers "mean" by words they use was
>initiated by Steve Long earlier in this thread when he questioned whether
>the use of inflectional morphology by Turkish children in the one word
>stage was really to be taken as inflection.
>If every word uttered is to be taken for its conventional meaning, then
>there is no point in asking that question. Accusative case is accusative
>case, and never mind what the child was using it for.
>If it is appropriate to question the function played by case marking
>morphology in the communicative behavior of beginning speakers, it is
>equally appropriate to question whether a conventional noun is really a
>noun in the usage of a particular child.
>The real problem in trying to maintain an intelligent, sustainable
>discussion of this issue is to remember that the point of view of the
>speaker may be very different from our own and that deviations from
>convention are not necessarily manipulative acts.
>An adult crying "fire" in order to attract attention, when he knows full
>well the conventional meaning of the term "fire" is being manipulative. A
>child who has no idea what the conventional meaning of "mama" is, and
>who may not have realized yet that every person has a mother, nor that
>what we call someone depends on our relationship with that person, nor
>for that matter, that mama is a noun rather than a verb, is not
>being manipulative, when using "mama" as a general summoning device.
>I think the same problem of not paying attention to the speaker's context
>may also be at the base of some of the misunderstandings about pidgins.
>Take this sentence from p.514 of Hock's PRINCIPLES OF HISTORICAL
>LINGUISTICS (Mouton 1991):
>(9) Number two cop catch him pass finish.
>    `The subordinate official received the letter.'
>We tend to think of pidgins as using only substantive words, with hardly
>any function words at all. And if we take every English word in (9) for
>its standard dictionary meaning, that would be true. But isn't it clear
>that the word "him" is serving as an indicator that the verb "catch" has
>an object "pass"? Isn't it equally obvious that the word "finish" is
>marking completive aspect?
>Is the pidgin speaker being "manipulative" when using English substantives
>as unconventional grammatical markers?
>   --Aya
>Dr. Aya Katz, Inverted-A, Inc, P.O. Box 267, Licking, MO
>65542 USA
>(417) 457-6652 (573) 247-0055

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